Summer pet care tips from veterinary expert, Marc 'the vet' Abraham

There really is nothing more unpredictable than British summertime. We never know what’s around the next corner weather-wise. But one thing we must remember is that, rain or shine, we must always look after the safety of our four-legged friends. Summertime can present dangers that even the most experienced pet parents amongst us may be unaware of and, most importantly, we need to know we have the tools and awareness to prevent and deal with these sometimes-fatal seasonal hazards.

How to best protect your pet in hot weather

Long-haired dogs will usually benefit from being clipped all over, and pet owners should be aware of the dangers of sunburn to both dogs and cats. Particularly susceptible are the ear-tips and noses of white cats, as are short-haired dogs such as English Bull Terriers. Protect exposed skin using pet-safe sunscreen applied generously, as areas remaining unprotected that get burnt can quickly turn cancerous, becoming difficult to treat and often proving fatal.

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Another summer hazard that some pet parents may not obviously be aware of, is the danger of walking your dog in the heat of the day. Remember, dogs can only sweat through their paws, and lose heat through panting, with short-nosed breeds such as Pugs and French Bulldogs particularly susceptible to overheating. Pavements and streets can become baking hot too, resulting in burnt, blistered, and painful pads. To avoid these dangers, walk dogs early or late in the day, and preferably on grass.

Dogs and cats should have access to fresh water, and obviously never leave your dog in a car, even with the window slightly open; your dog may overheat and die, or even get stolen.

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When cooling down in water, take extra precautions walking dogs near lakes and ponds, as hot weather can lead to an increase in blue-green algae containing toxins which are harmful, and potentially fatal, to dogs. When visiting beaches make sure your dog has enough shade, be aware of leftover food and dead wildlife, as well as discarded fishing gear containing sharp hooks. Home paddling pools and garden sprinklers are often the best, and most inexpensive, way for dogs and their owners to cool down safely.


Dog walking tips every pet parent should know

When walking your dog in the countryside, please always be mindful of sheep and other livestock. Farm animals are easily spooked and often attacked by dogs, leading to miscarriages, mauling, and sometimes stampedes; so either keep all dogs under control on short leads, or simply consider just avoiding these areas all together. The UK's only venomous snake, the adder, is also common at this time of year, so if your dog disappears into vegetation, and then returns yelping with two bleeding puncture wounds on his or her nose, then they’ve probably been bitten and will require urgent pain relief and antibiotic cover, with possible further treatment and hospitalisation too.

Just like humans and hay fever, pets can also suffer seasonal allergies to pollen and grasses, displaying symptoms of itching, scratching and ear infections, as well as changes in behaviour. Please visit your vet if you suspect your pet is suffering, as there are plenty of safe treatments available to make sure they can enjoy their summers as well. And, on the subject of grasses, those tiny arrow-like structures called grass seeds can easily find their way into dogs’ ears, eyelids, and even between your dog’s toes, quickly burrowing up into their paws and causing intense licking. This is an extremely uncomfortable and usually painful condition and needs to be dealt with by your vet ASAP, with any delay to treatment encouraging those pesky grass seed to migrate even further up your dog’s leg, and in some cases into body cavities and internal organs, making them even harder to locate and remove safely.

Pet behaviour and body language: how to understand dogs and cats better

One serious behavioural issue that has rarely ever affected so many dogs, cats, and indeed people all at once, is the sheer lack of socialisation opportunities the last year or so has allowed. Puppies and kittens purchased during the first few lockdowns are unlikely to have met enough humans, or other animals, to understand who’s safe and trustworthy. So when taking dogs out for walks or social gatherings, please be aware of anxious pups displaying signs of nervous aggression as a direct reaction to meeting unfamiliar people and dogs. Cat owners, please make sure sensitive felines meeting visitors to your home always have places to chill out, such as quiet rooms or up cat trees.

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Another potential behavioural problem to be very aware of, especially as we start returning to the office and leaving our pets at home, is separation anxiety. Some of the common symptoms include howling, soiling, excessive barking, and even destroying furniture and doorframes. These are some of the main reasons that pets are sadly abandoned into rescue. However, the good news is that separation anxiety can often be prevented and successfully treated, so it’s important to deal with any situation ASAP, and always consider seeking professional help from a qualified canine or feline behaviourist for best advice.

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As us humans slowly venture out to pubs and BBQs with pooches in tow, please also watch out for health risks associated with food, drinks, and packaging: for example drinks cans, broken glass, and kebab skewers all have sharp edges that can lead to external cuts and damaged limbs, plus corn on the cobs, fruit stones, and bones can all be easily and quickly ingested, commonly getting wedged in the small intestine, and requiring lifesaving and expensive surgical removal. New Covid-19-related PPE hazards include facemasks; these are easily swallowed, and may even cause intestinal perforation if they contain the metal nose-clips, or get stuck and aren’t removed quickly enough.


Protect your pets against fleas, ticks, and other infectious risks regularly

Finally, warmer temperatures often result in an increase in parasites and other infections. With many vet practices across the UK having provided reduced or emergency-only consultations during the pandemic, important vaccinations and preventative treatments may have been forgotten, leaving our four-legged loved ones vulnerable to common diseases including:

  • Parvovirus
  • Leptospirosis
  • Lungworm
  • Fleas
  • Ticks

Each infection or infestation leads to its own detrimental effects on your pet; for example, in both cats and dogs, fleas can cause irritation, hair loss, and even painful localised skin infections. Ticks are usually visible to the naked eye, but require a certain, very careful way of removal, so always seek professional advice as getting it wrong can lead to even more problems. Please make sure your dog or cat is routinely protected against all these dangers with flea and tick treatments such as FRONTLINE®, as not only are they a serious threat to their health and welfare, but also to yours, the rest of your family and friends, as well as to other animals too. Here’s wishing you and your pets a happy, healthy, and safe British summertime!

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