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Summer hazards

Summer is an exciting time for us and our pets, especially this year after such a long lockdown. It means better weather, longer walks, colourful high-grown fields and plenty of adventures. There are also additional hazards that we should be aware of and look out for.

In the summertime, your pet may suffer from hayfever (allergic rhinitis) just as we humans do. It is important to look out for symptoms such as a runny nose, sneezing and (even more common) skin redness around the body. If this is the case, you should contact the vet as quickly as you can to help reduce the symptoms, as excessive itching can cause lesions and secondary infections, and so a small allergy can quickly escalate into a skin infection if not treated soon. Some allergies last a lifetime but, just like in humans, some animals can become tolerant to some allergens as they age and, contrastingly, other animals may develop allergies with age. You should keep a very close eye on young animals or animals that have been moved into a new environment as they may be more excited to investigate new areas while being unaware of their sensitivities or the hazards surrounding them.

Plants – Tomato plants, rhubarb plants, poinsettias, lilies, tulips, lily of the valley, oleander, kalanchoe and azaleas can all cause toxicity to animals if ingested, and may be harmful.

Applying fertilisers to your garden can also be harmful to your pets. It is best to avoid use as it is difficult to control what your pet licks even within your own garden.

In woodlands, mushrooms may be poisonous if eaten by our pets, so you need to be aware of this if you have a particularly greedy dog and plan to walk through forests.

Watch out too for any foreign material such as balls, rope strings or toys that they might pick up. If swallowed, these can still be dangerous (the same as they would be at other times in the year), however, when you are exploring new places, you may not be expecting to find damaging items.

Blue-green algae forms a thick, green layer on the surface of still water and should be avoided. You should not allow your pets to swim or drink from these waters. Blue-green algae produces toxins which can cause neurological problems and liver damage. This becomes a larger issue in the summer when animals are more likely to enter bodies of water and the algae is blooming.

Flea and tick products – In the summer, ectoparasites such as fleas and ticks may become more active, so using products to deter them becomes even more important. However, a few mainly over-the-counter ectoparasite products are toxic to cats and rabbits (and some are to dogs!). So, take care in choosing the correct product if you know your pet will be coming into contact with another species and especially if you own both cats or rabbits (permethrin based products should be avoided in cats, fipronil in rabbits). You should look out for excessive itching as many dogs and cats are allergic to flea saliva and this should be treated before the itching causes secondary lesions.

Foods –  Summer is a time when eating outside becomes more appealing. This means we should be made more aware of which foods are poisonous to our pets. Toxic foods include: grapes, raisins, chocolate (particularly dark chocolate), onion, garlic, caffeine, macadamia nuts, peach stones or plum stones. To prevent poisoning, we should make sure we tidy up extremely well after eating outside, making sure our bins are in a secure location and tightly sealed. Avoid giving pets any of the leftovers. Remember that foods including bones, corn on the cob and kebab sticks, while not toxic, can still cause damage as they can become lodged in narrow passageways such as the dog/cat’s oesophagus, causing them to choke.

Water – Taking your dog for a day out to the beach may seem perfect but please be aware of saltwater toxicity. If your dog, or cat, drinks too much salt water, they will effectively have a salt overdose which causes vomiting and diarrhoea and often leads to neurological problems. You should make sure you carry a bottle of fresh water with a bowl, especially for your pet, to prevent them from drinking salt water and also to prevent dehydration.

Pesticides – Although during spring and summer you want to make the most of the optimum plant growing conditions, applying slug and snail baits may prove poisonous to your pets. Please avoid use when possible or ensure you use them within a confined space which is inaccessible to your pets. The use of rodent poisons is also dangerous. Your pet may become intoxicated without eating the poison directly but by eating the body of the dead rodent. You should always stop your animals from eating other animals as their cause of death is unknown and may be extremely infectious.

Bee and wasp stings may cause a huge reaction in some pets. If so, or swelling from a sting is near the mouth or nose, contact your vet as soon as possible as the inflammation caused could affect the breathing systems and cause shock.

While not that common, snake bites do occur in the summer season. Be aware of Adders which normally live in dry, sandy areas, as their bite is venomous.

Heat hazards – overheating is a huge hazard we face in the summer. If preventative methods are not undertaken, the effects can be disastrous. NEVER leave a dog alone in a car. Cars heat up extremely quickly in the summertime. Be aware of sunny pavements which can get so hot that they burn the pads on the underside of your dog’s paw. If you can not hold your hand against the surface for 5 seconds without discomfort then it’s not safe for your pet.

To summarise, in Summer, you should always:

  • Provide some outdoor shade for your pet, making sure they always have somewhere to go for shelter from the sun.
  • Be sure to regularly check they have access to fresh, clean water.
  • Assess any water and walkways before taking them for walks in new places.
  • Contact us quickly for advice should something concern you.