Summer threats to our pets

December 13, 2017

Fun in the sun: Heatstroke and sunburn can be issues for our pets in the summer months

Fun in the sun: Heatstroke and sunburn can be issues for our pets in the summer months

The Australian summer has arrived and along with it a number of dangers for pets that owners need to be aware of and take steps to prevent.

Veterinary supervisor Dr Jill Griffiths from The Animal Hospital at Murdoch University, warned owners should be alert to danger from heat stroke, snakebites and sunburn, swimming pools, festive food and fireworks, and act quickly if pets become distressed.

Snakebites

Venomous snakes are now well and truly out of hibernation, hunting and looking for mates, so they are coming into contact with people and their pets.

“We are seeing high numbers of snakebites in dogs, cats and even chickens,” said Dr Griffiths.

“Anyone who suspects their pet has come into contact with a snake should take them to a vet immediately.

“Initial reactions to a bite include trembling, rapid breathing, vomiting, defecation and/or collapse. If the dose of venom is large enough, complete paralysis will occur followed by death if untreated with anti-venom.

“If treated immediately, pets have a very good chance of survival and recovery.”

Heatstroke and sunburn

“Heatstroke can happen very quickly, particularly for dogs left in cars,” said Dr Griffiths. “On a 30°C day, the temperature inside a car can rise to 70°C within 15 minutes – and that’s with the windows rolled down slightly.

“Dogs are also so eager to please, they will keep playing in hot temperatures to the point of collapse. Owners need to watch for warning signs of heatstroke such as heavy panting, and ensure they provide plenty of shaded areas and fresh water.

“Sunburn is often an issue for animals which expose the pink skinned parts of their bodies when lying in the sun. So it’s important to apply sunscreen to these parts. Animals can suffer burns and skin cancers too.”

Hot sand and footpaths

It’s important to keep exercising your dog in the summer, but Dr Griffiths said owners should be mindful of the time of day.

“The padding on our dog’s paws can be terribly burnt and blistered by piping hot sands and footpaths if they are taken out in the middle of the day. Stick to early morning or evening walks in the summer months.”

Swimming pool safety

Not all dogs are naturally good swimmers and so should never be left unsupervised around deep water.

“If they are old, have a heart condition or a seizure disorder it is best to keep them away from the pool altogether,” Dr Griffiths said.

Doggie life jackets are recommended if you are planning to take your pet out on a boat and they are not strong swimmers.

“If your pet is involved in a near-drowning incident, take them to the vet. Complications including hypothermia, pneumonia or fluid build-up in the lungs can occur,” Dr Griffith said.

Festive food and fireworks

Chocolate, macadamia nuts, grapes and lillies can all cause harm to cats and dogs.

“Chocolate is poisonous for dogs and is probably one of the most common causes of admission to The Animal Hospital in the summer months,” Dr Griffiths said.

“It is also important that we look out for the welfare of our pets around barbecues, not only because they can enjoy scraps a little too much, but because they can jump onto hot plates and burn their feet.”

Fireworks over the New Year and Australia Day period may be great fun for us but can be terrifying for our pets.

“Keep your pet indoors on these nights as they can often be panicked and disorientated by fireworks.”

The Emergency and Critical Care Service at The Animal Hospital, Murdoch University, provides a 24 hour, seven days a week comprehensive emergency and critical care service. It can be contacted on 1300 652 494.

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