SPCA’s top tips for keeping pets safe this summer
With the warmer weather upon us, SPCA wants to remind animal owners to be vigilant in the care of their pets over the summer.
In the summer months, SPCA sees an increase in the volume of complaints relating to animals without shade, animals lacking fresh water, and dogs left in hot cars.
“All of these welfare calls can be avoided by owners putting provisions in place and planning ahead for their furry family members,” says SPCA CEO, Andrea Midgen.
Dog owners should also be aware that with the introduction of MPI’s new Animal Welfare regulations on October 1, they can now be fined $300 for leaving their dog in a hot car.
“Dogs left in cars is a common welfare issue SPCA responds to over the summer. The interior of a car can heat up very quickly on a sunny day. Leaving the windows slightly open has very little effect. This situation can be extremely dangerous - even fatal - for dogs and is entirely preventable.
“It is our hope that owners will be mindful of the new regulation and the risk to their dogs - and think twice about leaving their dog in a car on a warm day,” says Ms Midgen.
"Summer is an enjoyable time of year for pets and people, and there are simple steps animal owners can take to make sure their pets are safe and happy too.”
Help your pet stay cool and enjoy a happy summer by following SPCA’s summer safety tips:
Dogs in hot cars
If the purpose of your trip is not for your dog, leave them at home. If you must take your dog with you in the car, bring fresh water and a water dish for them and always take your dog with you when you leave your car. Leaving a dog in a car on a warm day is a risk, as they can quickly suffer and die in hot cars. The new regulation to protect dogs means, if you leave your dog in a hot car and it becomes heat stressed, you and the owner of the vehicle can be fined $300. If you see a dog suffering in a hot car, take immediate action by finding the dog owner or call the Police or SPCA. Do not smash the car window as this can put both you and the dog at risk.
Exercise for pets
Exercise your pets early in the mornings or in the evenings, so they won’t overheat. Avoid long and strenuous walks on warm, sunny days, and steer clear of prolonged sun exposure. Take your pets to an area that has shade or a place for them to swim so they can take a break to cool off, and if they want to slow down or stop, follow their lead.
Water for all
Ensure your animals always have access to clean, fresh drinking water. In summer, keep their water bowl in a shaded spot to avoid it warming up. Just like us, pets don’t like warm drinking water. You can also leave shallow dishes of cool water in shaded spots outside to help wildlife keep cool and hydrated. Water may also be used to mist pets to help them keep cool.
Pets that are fair-skinned or light-haired are particularly susceptible to the sun’s harsh rays. Skin cancer occurs commonly in dogs and cats and, even though the fur provides some sun protection, your pet needs a sunblock applied every three to four hours to areas of their body that have no, or little, hair.
You can buy pet-friendly sunscreen to rub on the tips of their ears, on the end of their nose, and on their stomach – these are the most commonly sunburnt areas. Normal sunscreen ingredients include zinc oxide, which can be toxic to animals, so a pet-friendly sunscreen is best.
Ensure your outside pets, including horses, goats and poultry, have access to shaded areas to avoid the sun. Bear in mind the shade moves throughout the day so make sure to have multiple shade sources so your pet is protected regardless of time of day. Mature trees provide excellent shade but, if you do not have access to these, artificial shade can be simply and inexpensively constructed from shade cloth or tarps.
Paws for thought
Your dog’s feet can get burnt and blistered on the hot ground, particularly hot pavements, asphalt or scorching beach sand. Hot black iron-rich sands are found along much of the Western Coast of the North Island and can cause huge damage to the paws of your furry friends. Check if it is a safe temperature by holding the back of your hand on the pavement or sand for five seconds. If it is too hot for you to hold your hand there then your pet shouldn’t be out walking on it.
Pets requiring extra care
In the summer months, pet owners should take extra care with older or overweight pets, brachycephalic breeds (such as Pugs, British Bulldogs, and French Bulldogs), and those suffering from cardiac conditions. These pets are more susceptible to falling victim to heat stress.
• Half-fill a shallow children’s pool for your dog to bathe in – just make sure they can get in and out easily.
• Put ice cubes in an indoor bowl and freeze a big block of ice for their outdoor bowl.
• Doggie ice blocks are also a great way to keep them hydrated – just freeze your dog’s favourite treat in water, inside a Kong, or an ice-cream container.
• You can find cooling mats at most pet stores – these can be used as crate liners or as beds, and can be helpful for other animals too.
• Make sure your cat has some shaded, cool spots to lie down in.
• Place ice water in glasses and bowls around the house – cats are notorious for drinking out of any water container they can find.
• Stroking your cat with a damp cloth is a great way to keep them cool (if they will allow it!) – the best places to attend to are their paws, bellies and the outside of their ears.
• Brush your cat regularly – matted fur works as insulation, and will mean your cat can overheat more easily. If you have a long-haired cat and decide to shave them, leave at least a full inch of fur to help prevent sunburn.
• Relocate your small animal to a cooler part of your home.
• Place ice cubes wrapped in a tea towel, a small frozen icepack, or a wet tea towel in their enclosure for them to lean against.
• Small animals need to stay well hydrated, so fruit and vegetables high in water content, such as celery and apples, are a great and delicious way to help them avoid dehydration. Be careful to make sure the vegetables you feed to your small animal are appropriate for their dietary needs.
Know the symptoms of heat stroke
• Excessive panting
• Excessive drooling
• Abnormal gum and tongue colour
If you find an animal suffering from heat stroke
• Move the animal into shade or an air conditioned area
• Offer the animal a small amount of lukewarm water to drink
• Spray or soak animal’s neck, abdomen and inner thighs in lukewarm water
• Use cool but not cold water (do not use ice as this causes blood vessels to constrict, limiting heat loss)
• Take them to a vet ASAP