Summer survival guide for pets
As temperatures rise, follow our guide to keep your pets safe in the sun.
Dogs and cats hot weather advice
Pale-coloured dogs and cats are vulnerable to sunburn; particularly their ears, noses and sparsely haired areas. Sun damage can lead to skin cancer which may require extensive surgery – even amputation in severe cases.
The best prevention is to keep your pet indoors when the sun is strongest, between 11.00am and 3.00pm. Alternatively, cover vulnerable areas, or regularly apply a sunblock product specifically for pets that doesn't contain zinc oxide or PABA. Seek prompt veterinary advice if your dog or cat’s skin looks sore, crusty or scaly.
Your pet needs access to clean water at all times, ideally in a large bowl filled to the brim. Older animals, particularly cats, are vulnerable to dehydration. Don’t forget your dog needs fresh water if you’re at the beach – drinking seawater is likely to make your dog ill. Grooming is important, especially for longhaired animals.
A tangle-free coat will protect your pet’s delicate skin and keep them cool. Some animals may need their coats trimming – seek advice from a professional groomer.
Dogs in hot cars
Dogs succumb to heatstroke quickly. They cannot sweat in the same way that people can and cannot keep cool as easily as we can.
Never leave a dog in a hot car, even for a moment. 'Not long' is too long.
If you see a dog in distress inside a car, official advice is to dial 999 immediately and ask for the police. A dog in distress in a hot car is an emergency and the police will advise you what to do based on the situation.
Depending on the severity of the situation, the police may attend and break into the car to gain access to the dog, or they may advise you to do this. If you decide to break into a car without proper justification, this could be classed as criminal damage and you may need to defend your actions in a court.
Call the police using 999 and tell them what you intend to do and why. Take pictures and/or videos of the dog in distress and the names and phone numbers of witnesses. The Criminal Damage Act 1971 provides a lawful excuse to commit damage if you believe that the owner of the property that you damage would consent to the damage if they knew the circumstances (under section 5(2)(a).
Heatstroke in pets
Animals can suffer fatal heatstroke within minutes. Never leave your dog (or any pet) alone in a car – even with the windows open, and avoid exercising during the heat of the day. Signs of heatstroke include collapse, excessive panting, and dribbling. If you suspect your animal is suffering, remove him to a cool place, wet his coat and contact a vet immediately. Avoid overcooling, especially small pets.
Going on holiday, and what to do with your pet
Plan your holiday well in advance. If you are taking your pet with you, make sure the accommodation is pet-friendly: are pets allowed in all rooms, is outside space secure, will you be able to buy the food your pet is used to?
Taking your pet abroad:
- Leave plenty of time to arrange for an animal health certificate. Dogs and cats need to be microchipped and vaccinated before they can go abroad.
- Check your pet’s vaccinations are up to date and that you have supplies of any necessary medication
- Make sure your contact information on your pet's microchip is correct
- Make sure your dog’s tag has your mobile number or a local contact for you on holiday
- Check your pet insurance policy covers your pet abroad, and familiarise yourself with requirements to bring your pet back into the UK
- Consult your vet about protection from diseases your pet may encounter abroad, eg leishmaniasis from sandfly bites
Travelling in the car:
- Make sure your dog is secured by a harness or barrier and that there is plenty of ventilation
- Sun screens on the windows will offer protection from direct sunlight
- Avoid the midday heat by travelling early or late in the day
- You can use a misting spray to keep your dog cool, but avoid his face
Choosing a boarding cattery or kennel:
- Get a personal recommendation
- Drop in without an appointment and ask to look around
- Check your kennel/cattery is licensed by the local authority
- Book early – the best places get booked up far in advance
- Check if animals are housed individually; they should not be able to make nose or paw contact with others
- Ask about insurance cover in case of a veterinary emergency
- Ensure the location is not prone to flooding
- Find out how many staff there are per animal in the kennels
- Check the living area is warm, secure, clean and dry, with plenty of bedding
- Individual cat pens should have toys, a scratching post and a shelf where the cat can rest
- A good kennel/cattery will insist on seeing up to date proof of vaccinations and will ask for full information about your pet, including diet
Keeping rabbits and other small animals cool in the summer
Fly strike (myiasis) is a nasty condition that occurs when flies lay their eggs on or near rabbits. These hatch into maggots and then feed on the rabbit – causing pain, severe shock, and often death.
It’s essential to check your outdoor rabbits – and house rabbits – at least twice a day to make sure they’re clean and free from anything that may attract flies. Keep hutches clean and dry, and disinfect them at least once a week. Repellents such as 'Rearguard' may help protect your rabbit. If you find any maggots on or near your rabbit contact your vet immediately.
Top tips for small pets:
- Position hutches and runs in the shade, moving them as necessary, and keep them off the ground to improve ventilation
- The best runs have a covered area to provide shade and shelter
- Water should be available around the clock and kept topped up – it will evaporate faster in hot weather
- On a long journey, give your pet a piece of apple or celery to eat, for added moisture
- Mist your rabbit with cool water to help them remain at a comfortable temperature
- Brush out excess fur. If you have a longhaired rabbit, consider having the coat cropped by a professional groomer.
Horse care in the summer
Ensure your horse has access to a shady area in the field, and is protected from flies. Long manes and tails are a natural fly defence, but if you prefer your horse to have a pulled mane and forelock then you could use a fly fringe or mask – watch out for rubbing though. You may also want to buy a fine-mesh anti-fly rug and a good quality fly repellent.
You should monitor your horse’s weight all year, but be extra vigilant over the summer when there is plenty of grass. Use a weigh tape and keep a weekly chart. If you notice a weight gain then restrict grazing hours and/or use a well-fitted muzzle for short periods. If your horse is eating hard feed, consider reducing it or cutting it out.
- Horses can suffer from sunburn. Protect exposed, unpigmented, white and pink areas of the skin, like the muzzle, with a suitable hypoallergenic waterproof sunblock cream.
- A constant supply of clean, fresh water is essential to prevent dehydration
- A salt lick will help replace nutrients lost through sweating
- Horses’ feet can dry out in warmer weather so keep them well hydrated – your farrier can advise which products to use