An essential guide for pet owners: How to keep your pets happy and healthy in hot weather

Pet advice from Woodgreen Pets Charity on how to look after your dog in summer

Walk your dog in the early morning or in the evening when it's cooler so they don't overheat. - Credit: Woodgreen Pets Charity

What steps can you take to protect your pets against heatstroke and other dangers this summer? 

We chat with Wendy Kruger, dog behaviour and training specialist at Woodgreen Pets Charity, to find out what risks our animals are at during the hot weather.

Below, she shares some simple safety measures we can follow to keep our furry friends safe.

Q: What are the most common dangers for pets during the summer?

A: Pets face many of the dangers that we do when temperatures are high, including:

  • Dehydration – animals need access to plenty of cool, fresh water when it’s hot.
  • Heatstroke – make sure pets can rest in a shady place, limit what exercise they do and keep them indoors when it’s especially warm. Dogs are extremely sensitive to heat and their ability to effectively regulate their body temperature is compromised in hot conditions, which is why it’s paramount to watch out for signs of heatstroke.
  • Grass seeds – At this time of year, many dogs and cats get grass seeds embedded in their paws and ears – particularly those with longer fur. Once tangled in the hair, grass seeds often become rooted in and start to penetrate the skin. This is why it’s important to check their coats regularly and thoroughly during the summer months.

Q: How can I better prepare my dog for the hot weather?

A: Brush up on your grooming schedule and get rid of your dog’s thick undercoat. Clipping their fur short, especially in the areas that are in contact with the ground, will help your dog make the most of cooler surfaces.

Cat pet care advice during summer from Woodgreen Pets Charity

Use pet-friendly sun cream that doesn't contain zinc oxides for cats with white noses and ears to prevent sunburn - Credit: Ash Parker

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Taking your dog for a summer check-up can ensure they are in good health and that you’re aware of any issues that could affect them in the heat.

It’s also a good idea to familiarise yourself with the symptoms of heatstroke in pets, so you can prevent it and treat it quickly.

Q: What are the symptoms of overheating or heatstroke in pets?

A: Although dogs will often pant to cool themselves down, if it becomes excessive, it could be a sign of heatstroke. Other symptoms can include confusion, unsteadiness, dribbling, bright red gums, collapsing or even seizures.

If your dog appears too hot, immediately move them into a shady spot and cool them with lukewarm water over the neck, head and groin. If you’re still concerned, call a vet for further medical advice.

Q: How can I exercise my dog in hot weather?

A: Taking dogs for walks when it's hot can be extremely dangerous, especially for flat-faced breeds or dogs that are elderly or overweight. Pets can burn their paws on hot tarmac, and even short walks can cause heat-related illnesses.

When temperatures reach higher than the low 20s, you should only take them for a walk or allow them outside in the early morning or late in the evening when it’s cooler. Having enrichment activities or a paddling pool in the shade can also be helpful when it's too warm for exercising.

Wendy Kruger, dog training specialist at Woodgreen Pets Charity

Wendy Kruger is a dog behaviour and training specialist at Woodgreen Pets Charity. - Credit: Woodgreen Pets Charity

Don’t travel long distances with pets in the summer, as temperatures in cars can rise quickly and become very dangerous, putting them at risk of suffocation. Even in the shade and with the windows open, dogs shouldn’t be left in cars alone when it’s warm. If you see a dog looking distressed in a hot car, call 999.

Q: How can pets stay cool in the summer?

A: Make sure your windows, doors and curtains are closed to keep the heat out and turn on a fan to circulate the air. Frequently top up your pet's water bowl and wrap a frozen water bottle in a damp towel for them to lie next to. Frozen treats, like stuffed Kongs or carrots, or freezable toys and cooling mats can also help animals to remain comfortable.

Similar to dogs, cats should be kept indoors from around 11am to 3pm when the sun is at its hottest. Ensure your garden has plenty of shady spots where they can rest, and if you have a white cat, invest in pet-friendly sun cream to prevent sunburn.

Guinea pig and rabbit pet care advice from Woodgreen Pets Charity

Invest in open-ended, non-plastic toys for smaller pets during summer to keep them cool and provide them with shade. - Credit: Victoria Phan

Rabbit and guinea pig hutches should be moved into the shade – you may need to do this at several points throughout the day depending on the sun’s movement. If you can't move them, use parasols or a white sheet for shade. You’ll likely need to clear out the enclosure more often to prevent an infestation of flies. Be sure to give them plenty of fresh water and damp towels and use ample hay to give them somewhere cool to burrow.   

If searching for some fun toys for smaller pets, ensure they are open-ended and not made from plastic, as these can get extremely hot and can cause them harm.

To find out more about caring for your pets this summer, or for more advice on how to keep them safe, visit woodgreen.org.uk/pet-advice.