With temperatures forecast to remain high throughout the UK, there’s no better time to make sure you’re well aware of the potential risks to animals and how to keep them safe this Summer. Below we run through some tips and advice to keep different types of animals safe in the warmer weather.
General Pet Advice:
Advice for Dog Owners:
- Don’t leave dogs in your car, conservatory, caravan or outbuilding. If you see a dog in a hot car, call 999.
- If you are driving and bringing your dog, think about travelling during cooler times of the day and arrange to take breaks.
- Apply pet-safe sun cream to the exposed areas of your dog’s skin, including their ears and nose (white-furred dogs are particularly prone to sunburn).
- Ensure there is plenty of access to shade and fresh water (ice cubes in the water bowl can be a nice treat for your dog) – take water out with you when leaving the house with your dog.
- Provide a cool mat or damp towels to lie on (but don’t wrap the towel over your dog); if your dog loves splashing around then paddling pools and sprinklers can also be a fun way for them to cool down.
- Groom your dog regularly to ensure their coat is lighter.
- Walk your dog in the morning or evening to prevent their paws from burning and to reduce risk of heatstroke; check the temperature of the pavement with the back of your hand for 5 seconds and if it’s too hot for you, it will undoubtedly be too hot for your dogs’ paws. Signs that your dog has burned pads include licking/chewing their paws, darker coloured pads or any missing parts to the pad, blisters/redness, and refusing to walk or limping.
- Avoid running or cycling with your dog when it’s hot.
- When walking (avoid the hottest times of the day) make sure there is always access to shade, water, and a cool surface for their paws, such as grass.
- Dogs more likely to suffer from heat exhaustion or to struggle during walks in the warmer weather include flat-faced breeds, dogs with thick coats, overweight dogs, very old or very young dogs, and dogs with heart problems or respiratory disease – remember that ultimately, any dog can be affected.
Learn the signs of heatstroke to keep your dog safe:
- Excessive panting, heavy breathing or difficulty breathing
- Excessive drooling
- Red or purple gums
- Heightened pulse
- Glassy eyes & fearful expression
- Lethargy and lack of coordination or seizures
- Collapsing or vomiting & a reluctance to get back up afterwards
If you see a dog suffering from heatstroke, they’ll need to have their body temperature lowered by:
- Ensuring the dog is in a shaded area
- Pouring cool water (tap water 15-16°C) over the dog – avoid extremely cold water as it could shock them; continue to pour water over them until their breathing begins to settle
- Placing wet towels under the dog ONLY in mild cases – in more extreme cases pouring water over them is the best option
- Providing water for the dog to drink in small amounts
- Avoiding pouring water over their head to reduce the risk of them drowning
- When you have cooled the dog down, ensure you take them to your nearest vet
Advice for Cat Owners:
- Don’t leave cats in your car, conservatory, caravan or outbuilding; also make sure you check sheds, greenhouses, and summerhouses for cats before closing them
- Apply pet-safe sun cream to the exposed areas of your cat’s skin, including their ears and nose
- Ensure plenty of access to shade and fresh water (ice cubes in the water bowl can be a nice treat for your cat)
- Provide damp towels to lie on
- Groom your cat regularly to ensure their coat is lighter
- Leave your windows & doors ajar (if it is safe to do so – for cats which stay indoors make sure these have locking mechanisms) – this will allow a breeze throughout the house
Ticks are small, grey-brown parasites that suck blood from other animals (and humans!) with 6 or 8 legs, growing in size and darkening as they fill with blood. They climb or drop onto your pet’s coat when they brush past them, which can commonly occur when in woodland or grassland.
It’s important to remove ticks from your pets as soon as you notice them as they can carry diseases, such as Lyme Disease. Check your dog after returning from a walk – they’re big enough to spot by eye, but you can also run your hands over their body, particularly around the head, neck, ears and paws, to check for any small lumps that indicate the tick’s presence. Upon removal, it’s crucial to avoid squeezing the tick’s body or leaving the head in your pet’s body, as this can increase the chances of disease transmission. Therefore the best approach is using a tick removal tool (easily found in pet shops or vets), slowly pushing it under the tick, and twisting the tick clockwise until it comes loose. You should dispose of the tick in some tissue and flushing it down the toilet.
You can prevent ticks from biting your pets through tick treatments which kill or repel ticks once they attach themselves to the pet’s fur. You can ask your vet for more information about this. Never use cat tick medicine on dogs or dog tick medicine on cats – this can be fatal. If a tick has fed on your pet for a number of days, they’ll drop off but they may have transmitted a disease in this time. Lyme disease is one such infection which can be extremely serious – symptoms include depression, fever, lack of appetite, lameness and lethargy, swollen joints and swollen lymph nodes. It can be treated by antibiotics if caught early – contact your vet immediately if you suspect that your dog or cat has Lyme disease.
Advice for Rabbit/Rodent Owners:
- Don’t house rabbits or rodents in your conservatory, greenhouse or glass buildings
- Keep cages/hutches/runs out of direct sunlight
- Provide extra drinking water and plenty of shade in their enclosures
- Open windows for pets that live inside – this will allow a breeze to keep them cool
- Regularly groom your rabbit/rodents
- Spray water on the ground or gently mist your rabbit’s ears if they’re happy for you to do so
- Frozen water in plastic bottles wrapped in a towl can be a good way to cool down your rabbit as they lie against them
- Regularly (twice a day) check for signs of flystrike, especially around their tail and back end (make sure to clean this area often) – to additionally minimise the risk of flystrike, clean out their enclosure including toilet area (daily), bedding (weekly), and insect-proof any outdoor enclosures
- If you think your rabbit, hamster, guinea pig or other pet rodent is suffering from heatstroke, move them to a shaded area, wrapping them in a damp towel, and calling your vet
- Allow your rabbits and guinea pigs to supervised outdoor access in the garden (remove any hazards beforehand)
Advice for Horse Owners:
Horses are very much prone to dehydration and ultimately heat exhaustion or heatstroke as they often spend a lot of time outside in the sun. Some tips for keeping your horses cool and hydrated are below:
- Provide plenty of water – horses need around 55 litres of water every day, but this increases during warmer weather. Automatic watering systems or full troughs of water are recommended. Horses need to sweat to keep cool – they require constant access to water to replace the large amounts of sweat they produce. A salt lick can help replace salts lost from sweating.
- Provide constant access to shade.
- Apply child-safe factor 50 suncream to horses with pink areas of skin (such as on the face).
- Choose to ride your horse during cool times in the day i.e. in the morning or evening.
Signs of horses struggling from the heat include fast breathing and heart rate, lack of appetite and not drinking, lethargy, urinating less, and muscle spasms. You can tell if your horse is dehydrated by performing a quick examination of their gums – they should be pink, shiny, and moist. If they’re dry, pale or tacky then they could be dehydrated. If your horse is suffering from heat stroke or heat exhaustion then you should move them to a shaded area and pour water over them. Crucially, make sure you call your vet for advice.
Advice for Farmers & Livestock Owners:
- Provide ample shade & fresh water
- Keep their living areas well-ventilated
- Use fans to reduce heat
- Minimise the number of animals in living areas to help air circulate
- If cattle are brought inside, provide unlimited water, milk cows later in the day when the temperature has dropped, cool animals down with water, and feed them at either end of the day
- Pigs are prone to heat stress so make sure: they have wallows available to lose heat; their arcs are well-insulated; misting is installed; and if necessary, hose down pigs to cool them quickly – call your vet if you think they’re suffering from heat stress
- Keep an eye on newly shorn sheep as they are more likely to suffer heat stress than fully fleeced sheep – the fleece acts as insulation against heat
- Don’t transport farm animals during hot weather periods – if required, move them at night when the temperature has dropped
Much of this advice comes from the RSPCA. You can find out more and get further advice by visiting their website here.