With the recent hot spell announcing the arrival of Summer 2023 and Met Eireann forecasting above average temperatures for the summer season, Veterinary Ireland is advising all pet owners to give their pets plenty of WAVES over the coming summer months.
“WAVES” explains Peter Bishton, Veterinary Ireland’s Deputy Chief Executive, “stands for WAter, VEntilation and Shade. These are the three things essential to all pets during the summer months, and Veterinary Ireland uses this short acronym to help pet owners keep their dog and cat family members safe and healthy throughout the summer”.
“Having adequate drinking water available for your pet at all times is of prime importance,” explains Mr Bishton, “in order to ensure that your pet is adequately hydrated. Ensure that water bowls are kept topped up, and when out, have a separate water bottle available for your dog. A pop-up camping bowl is also useful to ensure that your dog can take in adequate water. Short drinks on a regular basis are better than one long drink, and make sure that the water is not too cold”.
According to Mr Bishton, while water is an important factor for hydration, there are also water-based risk factors. “On hot days, the temptation may be for your dog to cool down by taking a splash in a river, lake or pond. Before letting your dog jump in, please check the water. Where algae are growing in the water or are visible on the shoreline, there may be an increased risk of algae poisoning - algae can produce toxins which may be lethal to dogs. Should your dog swallow any algae, please consult your vet immediately.
“Even if the water is safe from algae, when throwing anything into a river or lake for your dog to fetch, please be aware that there is the potential for drowning. Secondary Drowning, where the dog takes in too much water when opening its mouth, while not common, can happen, and the risk of drowning increases during the summer months, through a higher rate of exhaustion, or from cooling down too rapidly”.
While most people would know that keeping a dog in the car during a hot spell is dangerous, it is equally important to ensure that any accommodation, such as a bedroom, kitchen, or especially a glazed conservatory, is kept at a comfortable temperature for your dog or cat.
“Ventilation is a major factor in keeping your dog or cat comfortable in summer, and provides not only a cooling breeze, but also assists the pet to breath and pant to cool down”.
Unlike humans, dogs are unable to sweat through the skin, but cool down through panting. Panting is not as efficient as sweating and so dogs can find it difficult to cool down as quickly as humans when it is hot. Flat-faced breeds such as Pugs, Bulldogs or Pekingese, are specifically at-risk during summer months as selective breeding has created respiratory problems in many of these breeds, making it harder for them to breathe normally, let alone be able to pant in hot weather.
Providing a cool, shaded space for your pet to rest, either at home or when out, is essential. “Shade is critically important, as dogs and cats can also suffer from sunburn,” states Mr Bishton. “Ears, noses, paw pads, and areas where the fur is thinner, such as on the stomach, can all get burnt in the summer sun. While there are sun protection products available from your own vet, the best action is to create a shady spot for your companion animal. While it may be easier to create a shady spot at home, either in the house or in the garden, if out with your dog find a cool spot under trees or bushes, or carry a light shawl with you, and create a shelter where your dog can rest and enjoy a drink of water”.
Other factors to bear in mind during the summer include when to exercise your pet dog. “A dog’s exercise should be timed for the cooler parts of the day, especially for larger dogs or those with thicker coats. The summer sun can also increase the temperature underfoot, and hot tarmac, concrete and beach sand can burn the paw pads of dogs. The overall age and health of your dog should also be considered when exercising, as any existing condition can be exacerbated by the summer environment, especially for those dogs with any heart, kidney or breathing problems’, explains Mr Bishton.
For any aspect of care for your companion animal, at any time of year, your vet is the best person to contact with any questions, or to seek specific advice. Keep the veterinary practice’s number in your mobile and do not hesitate to call.
“Don’t forget”, concludes Mr Bishton, “it is essential to provide plenty of fresh water, adequate ventilation and cool shade for your dog, whatever it is doing – so be sure to give your pet dog or cat plenty of WAVES this summer!”.
Notes for Editors
Veterinary Ireland is the representative body for veterinary practitioners in Ireland, and at European / EU Level through its membership of the Federation of European Companion Animal Veterinary Associations (FECAVA). With a membership of over 1,500 veterinary practitioners, working in over 700 veterinary practices, as well as for the State and Local Authorities, and in education, research and industry, Veterinary Ireland produces policies and guidelines, all available on its website at www.veterinaryireland.ie.