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Summertime is in full swing here in New Zealand, this means days at the beach, lounging in the sun, and swimming in the sea. These warmer temperatures and sunny days can expose our pets to some dangers.


Heatstroke is a serious and potentially fatal condition in our pets. Obese, flat-faced breeds or pets with existing lung or heart disease are more sensitive to heat stress. To help keep our pets comfortable and avoid heat stroke it is important to avoid exercise during the hottest time of the day. Take advantage of the cooler times, before 9am and after 5pm, and aim to walk your dog during these times. Clipping longer-haired breeds will help them keep cooler. Encourage water play to cool them down, take them for a swim, or provide a doggy paddling pool for them to play in. If they are outside provide them with lots of shade, or keep them indoors with good ventilation or use fans or air conditioning to keep them comfortable.

Always have access to cool fresh water for them to drink.  Frozen treats are a great way to help keep them cool and provide them with fun enrichment. Avoid traveling in cars during the hotter times of day and never leave them inside the car. Cooling mats are also available and can be used to line your dog's bed or crate.

Cats aren’t well known for being water babies so it can be harder to find ways to keep them cool. One tip can be to stroke your cat with a damp cloth, and focus on their paws, tummy, and behind their ears.

Know the signs of heat stroke:

· Excessive panting

· Restlessness

· Excessive drooling

· Unsteadiness or wobbliness

· Abnormal gum and tongue colour, (dark red, pale, purple, or blue)

· Muscle tremors, and seizures

· Vomiting and diarrhoea, sometimes with blood

· Increased heart rate

· Lethargy, or Collapse


Insect bites/stings

Wasp and bee stings are more common during these summer months. Our curious pets may accidentally

get stung trying to play with these little critters. Stings can become painful, red, and swollen. The location of the sting can determine the severity of the response. Symptoms of being stung can be influenced by the location of the sting, for example, a swollen paw if stung there. Some pets can have a generalised allergic reaction to insect stings, they can develop hives, drooling, facial swelling, breathing difficulties, and they may start vomiting or have diarrhoea. Some severe cases can go into shock and can even collapse as a result of an anaphylactic reaction. This is a real emergency, so it is important to seek veterinary advice urgently. 

What to do if your pet has been stung:

· If a stinger can be found remove it, this can be done by scraping it out with something stiff like a credit card or using tweezers.

· Apply a cool compress to the swollen area, for example, a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a towel. This can be repeated over the day to reduce swelling and ease pain.

· If your pet is constantly licking the affected area or rubbing at it, place an Elizabethan collar on them to prevent them from causing further trauma.

· Some antihistamines are safe for pets to have to help reduce the reaction, contact your veterinarian for further advice for safe administration.

Ticks, fleas

During the summer months, parasites such as hookworms, heartworms, fleas, and ticks are more common. Keep your pet up to date with their flea and worm prevention.


Sunburn also affects our pets,  especially white-furred, sparsely-haired animals or ones with pink areas of skin.  Affected areas include the bridge of the nose, ear tips, around the mouth and eyes, tummies, and inner thighs.  Repeated sunburn can progress to aggressive types of skin cancer, so reducing sun exposure is the key to prevention.

Tips to prevent sunburn:

· Avoid the sun during 9am and 3pm which is the peak for UV rays.

· Close blinds and shades to prevent sunbathing indoors, glass is not sunproof so indoor pets can still get sunburnt.

· Keep your pet in the shade if they are outside.

· Avoid your pet lying in areas that reflect the sun i.e., white concrete flooring, or sunlight reflection from water.

· Pet-friendly animal-specific sunblock can be applied to exposed areas of the skin.

· Sunblock and sunscreen should be specifically for pets and safe for both cats and dogs. They should protect against both UVA and UVB radiation with an SPF of at least 30. Ensure to apply it 10-15mins before exposure and reapply it frequently.


Beach hazards

Summertime and the beach go hand in hand. To enjoy the beach safely with your pet it is best to avoid the hottest time of day, and take them early morning or late in the evening. Sand can become very hot during the day, remember if it's too hot for you to walk on then it's too hot for your pet. Swimming is a great way to keep your pet cool, but it is best to choose calm waters and avoid rough waves. If you have your dog join you on a boat then make sure they wear a doggy life vest. Throwing toys can accidentally result in large volumes of salt water or sand being ingested. Saltwater consumption can have serious side effects such as seizures, sand can cause gut impaction. Watch out for toxic sea life that may wash up on the shore, for example, Pufferfish, sea slugs, and blue bottle jellyfish.  Fish frames, hooks, and bait can be found discarded on the beach which your dog may find irresistible and if consumed can have serious consequences.


Highrise syndrome

Highrise syndrome is a term used to refer to the injuries a cat can get from falling from a height, ie. from a window or balcony. Cats are notorious for window watching, so be mindful when opening the windows to allow some fresh summer air inside the home. Hotter weather can mean more windows are open and outdoor spaces such as balconies being used more frequently. Cats can accidentally fall from these resulting in multiple serious injuries.

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