With summer upon us at last, most of us will be looking forward to sunny days in the garden and outdoors.
As the temperatures rise, Scallywags Pet Care offers you some top tips to keeping your pets healthy and well this summer.
Feelin' hot hot hot!
All dogs get hot and bothered in the heat, and higher temperatures can be particularly troublesome for short-nosed or heavy-coated breeds, old, sick or overweight dogs and those with heart problems. Make sure your dog always has somewhere shady to escape the sun - whether it's bushes and trees in the garden, a parasol stuck in the ground or even a sheet hung over a couple of bamboo sticks.
This also applies to cats, rabbits in outside runs, chickens and aviary birds, or any animal this is out in the sunshine, as well as indoor pets in cages. Make sure your pet's accommodation has some shade and never leave their cages in direct sunshine.
Even fishponds can get very hot in the summer, so check them regularly. Remember that as the sun moves through the day, so too does the shade so you need to be able to move the shaded area.
If your dog likes water, a child's paddling pool with an inch or two of water makes for a perfect cooling spot. Dogs cool from the bottom up, so cooling their paws and tummies is much more effective than trying to spray their heads and back.
NEVER leave your dog alone in the car on a warm or sunny day. Even with the windows open a crack, the temperatures can rise to dangerous levels within minutes - on a pleasant 70 degree day outside, the temperature inside a car can reach almost 90 degrees in just 10 minutes and exceed 100 degrees in half an hour! And don't forget that conservatories and caravans can be just as bad.
If you regularly travel with your dog or are taking him on holiday with you, invest in a cooling pad (available from pets stores and online) to keep your pet's temperature down. For a cheap alternative, fill a plastic bottle with water, freeze and wrap in a towel to use as a cooling cushion.
Know the signs of sunstroke - heavy panting, dry/bright red gums with thick saliva, vomiting/diarrhoea or unsteady legs. If your pet shows these symptoms, slowly cool them down with cool (not cold) water-soaked towels; change these towels regularly and contact your vet for further advice.
Animals with white noses or ear tips can be at risk of getting sunburnt so apply a high factor pet sunblock (available from pet stores and online) to these areas to minimise the risk.
Stay cool dude!
In hot weather, it's essential that your pet drinks enough water as dehydration can lead to kidney stones or even renal failure. Take a bottle of water when out walking your dog rather than letting him drink from dried-up puddles and streams, which could contain all kinds of nasties from dangerous bacteria to toxic run-off from dirty roads.
Keep your pet's water bowl topped up throughout the day with fresh, clean water. Add a few icecubes to keep the water cool and leave the bowl inside or in a shaded area.
A well-groomed, regularly brushed pet will cope with summer heat more easily and be less likely to attract pets like fleas, ticks and mites. If your pet is long or thick-coated, NEVER clip or shave them - their fur not only protects them from the cold but also helps them regulate their body temperature in the heat and sun. Regular grooming and a shady place to lie is the best option to keeping cool.
Fun in the sun
A walk in the park is a great way to enjoy the sunshine, but exercising in the heat can put your dog at risk of heat stroke. Gentle walks are best, ideally early morning or evening when the temperatures aren't as high.
With the warmer weather, we may also venture to the beach with our dogs who love to romp across the sands and splash in the tide. Prevent itching and irritation from sand and salt water by brushing your dog, washing with a gentle shampoo and rinsing thoroughly with clean water.
Remember too that hot road surfaces, pavements and sand can burn paws!
Some dogs will jump through fire to get to a pool, lake or river but even the strongest of swimmers need constant supervision and a way to get out of the water. Always supervise your dog around water and be careful of currents and riptides.
In very hot weather, a greenish blue algae (cyanobacteria) can build up in stagnant water such as ponds, lakes and canal basins. These algae can be toxic to dogs so avoid affected areas and stop your dog from entering or drinking the water.
Warmer weather means open doors and windows - so you need to be extra vigilant of any escapes. Check fences and hedges in your garden for any holes or damage over the winter and be careful with open windows on upper floors and any adventurous cat who might want to sunbathe on the windowsill!
Make sure your pets are microchipped, just in case they do manage to escape or stray while you're out and about.
Don't forget to keep your regular flea, tick and worm treatments up to date - check out Scallywags' articles for further advice. If you're going on holiday, check before you go if your pet is due any treatment while you are away.
Flystrike is a big problem for rabbits in the warmer months - rabbits' bottoms often become damp and the warm, damp area attracts flies. The flies lay eggs which hatch into maggots, which can then burrow into your rabbit's skin and flesh. Check your rabbit's bottom and clean soiled bedding on a daily basis, and contact your vet if you're worried.
While it might be funny watching Fido try to catch a buzzing bee, a sting can be very painful to your pet and some animals can be allergic to the sting, needing immediate vet attention. Discourage your dog or cat from catching flying insects where possible, and be mindful if your dog has a habit of sticking his head in long grass or bushes for a good sniff.
Grass seeds can be a problem too - they can be so sharp they can penetrate the skin and then continue to move underneath the skin. Check likely areas for seeds, such as between the toes, in the ears and under the tail and, if possible, keep their paw fur clipped. If you suspect your pet has a grass seed stuck in the skin, if they're shaking their head or nibbling at a particular area of their body, see your vet straightaway as the seeds can be harder to deal with the longer they are left untreated.
And finally ...
If you're taking your pet on holiday to Europe this year, remember they will need a pet passport, rabies vaccination (if necessary), microchip and tapeworm treatment (for dogs on return to the UK). Check out the government guidelines and speak to your vet well in advance of your holiday to arrange the passport and necessary treatments.
For many, summer isn't summer without a BBQ ... but don't be tempted to give your pet too many titbits and certainly nothing smothered in sticky sauces, spices and flavourings. Beyond the fact that human food can upset tummies and contribute to pet obesity, remember that a lot of human food can be toxic to dogs and cats so, if in doubt, don't feed it to them.
This article was brought to you by Scallywags Pet Care - based in Hurst Green and covering Oxted, Limpsfield, Westerham and the surrounding areas, we provide dog walking, cat and small animal feeding, and pet taxi services. Contact us now to see how we can help with care for your pet.