As summer draws near and we all get more vigilant about protecting ourselves from the sun and heat, spare a thought for our four-legged friends. Just like people, our pets can get sunburnt or dehydrated, suffer heatstroke and get stomach upsets over the summer months.
On the one hand, pets tend to enjoy the longer, warmer evenings and extra sunshine, but on the other hand, summer can be surprisingly dangerous for them. Every summer, several dogs end up visiting the vet for sunburn, heat stroke or having their paws burned by the pavement. Other dogs have been known to eat corncobs – which can result in hospitalisation and costly surgery.
Sharp barley grass seeds (aka foxtail grass seeds) can get embedded in the skin, paws, nose or ears of cats and dogs. Pets have also be known to eat blood and bone fertiliser, as well as slug and snail or rat bait. What’s more, Fish hooks are another common danger for dogs and cats alike during the summer months – it’s not uncommon for them to get them stuck in their mouths or even swallow them.
Many of the of the above result in an emergency trip to the vet, expensive surgery and a great deal of stress for the animal and its owners. Consider the following tips this summer, so your doggie or moggie can safely enjoy the season:
Protect your pet from the heat
Hot footpaths and roads can burn paws, so where possible, walk your dog on the grass. An easy test is to put your hand on the foot path — if it’s too hot for your hand, it’s too hot for your pet’s paws.
Most importantly, never leave your pet in a parked car. Temperatures inside a vehicle can rise rapidly to dangerous levels, causing organ damage, and even death. On a day where it’s 24 C° outside, the temperature inside a car can rise to 34° within 10 minutes and 40° in 40 minutes. Leaving the windows down makes very little difference – so even if it’s just for a couple of minutes, take your pooch with you or tie it up outside.
Use pet-friendly sunscreen
Skin cancer is surprisingly common in dogs and cats. Although their fur provides some protection from the sun, their exposed skin is still vulnerable – especially the nose and bellies on dogs, and ears on cats. Apply pet-friendly sunscreen (human sunscreen is toxic to them) to their least hairy spots every three to four hours over the summer months.
Keep treats for you – not your pets
Remember that treats like chocolate and fruit mince pies are toxic to pets. And don’t share your BBQ food with them either. Too many fatty leftovers can cause pancreatitis, which may lead to severe abdominal pain or death. Corn on the cob and peach pits can also lodge in a dog’s intestines, so don’t leave them lying around.
Watch out for grass seeds
Barley grass seeds are sharp and can get stuck in your pet’s eyes, ears, noses, paws and skin, often requiring removal by surgery. Check your pet thoroughly after being outdoors, especially if they have been in long grass – and if they seem to be sneezing continuously, get them checked by your vet. It’s also common for long pieces of grass to get stuck up their nose.
Pet-proof your garden
Blood and bone fertiliser and pest baits are appealing to pets but they’re very toxic and can kill them. Use toxin-free fertiliser, and make sure your pets are indoors when you’re spraying. Keep slug, snail and rat bait out of reach in a pet-proof container. If you suspect poisoning, make a note of the symptoms, try to identify the toxins and contact your vet immediately for advice.
Don’t let them take the bait
Whether it’s sniffing out a baited fish hook, eating a fish with a hook still in it or being attracted to a colourful fly, cats and dogs can inadvertently become the catch. Keep bait, fish and hooks well out of reach and in a secure container. If you suspect your pet has eaten a hook, contact your veterinarian immediately. Swallowed hooks can cause internal injuries and it’s difficult for animals to pass them normally.
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Note: This quick questionnaire is designed to give you an idea of your personal skin cancer risk factors.
It isn’t intended to be a substitute for medical advice or diagnosis – please contact us if you have any questions about your skin cancer risk.
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