Summer tips for pet owners as weather warms up

CHILLI DOG: Chilli the daschund models some dog-size sunglasses, as vets warn owners to mitigate the risks of sun and heat to their pets. Photo: Peter Hardin 141117PHD081
CHILLI DOG: Chilli the daschund models some dog-size sunglasses, as vets warn owners to mitigate the risks of sun and heat to their pets. Photo: Peter Hardin 141117PHD081

IF IT’S too hot and sunny for you, it’s definitely too hot and sunny for them: that’s the advice from a Tamworth vet as the weather warms up.

Greencross Vets South Tamworth’s Stephanie Chaffey said some of the biggest risks to pets – especially dogs – were overheating, hot surfaces and sunburn.

And while it may seem a little anthropomorphic, a responsible owner might even decide to bring in the dog sunnies or even sunscreen.

“Overheating is really common this time of year, in spring and summer,” Dr Chaffey said.

“Dogs don’t know when to stop running around, so often it’s up to their owners to tell them or to show them when it’s time to stop play.

“The other important thing is taking your dogs for a walk early in the morning or late in the evening – so definitely not in the heat of the day – because they can overheat, but also because they can get burns on their little paws.

“It’s important to remember that you should test the ground – and if it’s too hot for your hand, then it’s too hot for their little feet.”

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Summer injuries

Dr Chaffey said she’d seen some terrible injuries last season.

“Last summer we had some dogs come in that had been on the backs of utes, and they’d had their foot pads burnt from just sitting on the ute trays.”

Greencross Vets South Tamworth’s Stephanie Chaffey with Chilli Jones. Photo: Peter Hardin 141117PHD025

Greencross Vets South Tamworth’s Stephanie Chaffey with Chilli Jones. Photo: Peter Hardin 141117PHD025

She said that, even though their fur gave them some cover, some pets needed a bit of help in the skin protection department.

“Often people like to get their dogs groomed for summer ... and then they’re often exposed to the sun and get sunburnt after a haircut,” she said.

White dogs were more at risk even without the grooming.

“White dogs have the biggest problem; they’re quite prone to sun cancers, so people can get little rashies for their dogs; some dogs can wear some sunnies or even some sunscreen – you’ve just got to remember not to use sunscreens with zinc oxide in them, because that’s toxic to dogs.”

Cancer claims

Pet Insurance Australia’s Nadia Crighton said there were about 1500 claims in Australia for skin cancer in dogs, and while the statistics were lower, cats were also at risk.

She said this was “just a snapshot of those pets who actually have pet insurance” and the number could be much higher.

“Being prepared early is key to preventing your pet from being a victim,” she said.

“We need to consider our pets’ skin in the same consideration as we do our own.”

Don’t forget the tummy rubs

Perth veterinary oncology specialist Ken Wyatt said it was vital not to overlook certain areas of the skin.

“Sunlight-induced skin cancer is far more common in dogs and cats with pale skin, as it is in people,” Dr Wyatt said. 

“White cats are at very high risk for carcinoma of the face. 

“Bull terriers commonly develop carcinoma on the belly, as much because they seem to enjoy sunbaking on their back as having pale skin.”

Ms Crighton said dogs and cats who were treated quickly could be cured of skin cancer.

“If you suspect your dog or cat has a lump or persistent sore, seek veterinary treatment quickly to rule out cancer.”

Other tips

  • Keep pets with pale skin inside during the heat of the day
  • Ensure your dog has ample shady areas
  • Consider using specially designed pet sunscreens
  • Use a pet sun-suit
  • UV protect windows for indoor cats
  • Ensure cat runs are completely in the shade