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The summer can be a great time to get outside and spend more time with our pets of all shapes and sizes. However, we must be careful to enjoy the warmer weather responsibly, as there can be some hidden dangers lurking for our pets.

Hot Weather

We might enjoy the warmth of a summer heatwave, but sadly if the weather gets too warm then this can be dangerous for our pets. This is especially true for any flat-faced (brachycephalic) pets, which includes

  • Dogs such as Bulldogs, Pugs and Shih Tzus
  • Cats such as Persians, Burmese, and Exotic Shorthairs
  • Rabbits such as some Netherland Dwarfs and Lionheads

Their shorter noses mean they cannot lose heat as easily when they breathe or pant, and so are more prone to over-heating. All our pets will need protection from the heat at certain times of the year, but it is especially important for these kinds of breeds.


Our pets are not always that sensible when it comes to keeping themselves cool when they are out and about, so we need to take responsibility for their safety in the heat.

Do not encourage pets to spend time outdoors during the hottest parts of the day. Walk dogs in the early mornings or late evenings, or even skip walks completely if the weather is too hot. No dog ever died from missing a walk, but sadly some do die every year from walking in heat. You should also avoid sitting outside with your dog in the warm weather, as some dogs can even overheat when lying in the shade. NEVER leave dogs (or any other pets) in a car on a hot day – even for just a few minutes.

Keep rabbit hutches and runs out of direct sunlight, and do not leave rabbits in an exposed run on hot days.

Outdoor cats will usually avoid going out in the hot parts of the day, but make sure they have easy access back into the house whenever they need it.


In hot summers, it is important to create cool spaces that your pets can retreat to when they need to chill. Choose a cool, dim corner of your home with no direct sunlight. Pets often like to lie on with hard floors (tiles or wood), but you can also get specially designed cooling mats that help to absorb heat from our pets’ bodies more quickly.

All pets must always have easy access to fresh water, but this is especially important when it is hot. It is best to have several different water bowls available in different parts of the house – cats in particular like to have a choice about where they drink. Be sure to top them up each day and clean them out at least once a week to prevent bacteria or algae from growing in the bowl.

Symptoms Of Heatstroke

The early signs of heatstroke (panting and drooling) can look a lot like a normal dog on a hot day. However, as the pet’s body temperature increases, this can quickly cause damage to their internal organs, including their liver, heart, and brain. This is why it is so important to try and prevent heatstroke.

The symptoms of heatstroke in dogs are:

  • Panting excessively
  • Foaming at the mouth
  • Red mouth or gums
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhoea (which can sometimes be bloody)
  • Weakness and wobbliness
  • Collapse
  • Seizures

Cats and rabbits may show similar symptoms, though they usually do not pant unless they are severely unwell. Instead, they may breathe much more rapidly than normal.

Sadly, if heatstroke is not treated or is too severe, it may lead to death.

What To Do

If you think that your pet may be suffering from heatstroke, then you should offer them a drink of water straight away. This water should be cool, but ideally not cold, and do not offer them ice cubes – they need to drink not crunch, and definite.

If you have a fan available, then see if they will stand in front of this. Moving air can be very effective at cooling our pets.

Gently wet their fur to help their body to get rid of the heat more quickly. Again, use water that is cool but not cold (no ice). Start by wetting their paws, ears, and head, as these areas have less fur and a good blood supply, and so are good at getting rid of heat. You can also pour water over their bodies once the other areas are wet.

Once you have done this, call your local vet practice immediately for advice. It is best for any dog with suspected heatstroke to be checked by a vet, so you should start making arrangements to travel down. If possible, continue to cool your pet down while you travel.

What Not To Do

It’s easy to panic when you are worried about your pet. These are a few common mistakes that owners sometimes make when trying to help their overheating pets:

  • Wrapping in wet towels – the towels will actually keep the heat in, which can make things worse.
  • Using ice – the cold will cause the nearby blood vessels to shrink, making it much harder for the body to lose heat from that area.
  • “Let’s just see how they go” – heatstroke is a serious and potentially fatal health condition. If you suspect that your pet may have overheated, always seek advice from a vet. The sooner your pet gets any treatment, the more likely they are to pull through.

Water Intoxication

It might sound like a funny idea, but too much water can actually be bad for our pets. In rare cases, drinking too much can lead to a drop in sodium levels in the blood. This can cause swelling of the brain, leading to weakness and wobbliness. This is a serious condition that sadly can be fatal.

However, this doesn’t mean that you need to panic about your pet having a few too many laps at the water bowl! Water intoxication only occurs when pets – usually dogs – drink far, far more water than they should. This happens most often when they are playing with water, such as chasing a hosepipe or playing fetch in a freshwater river or lake.

If you see your dog biting at water as part of a game, then don’t encourage this – try and find another way for them to play, instead.

Saltwater Toxicity

Drinking salty water is not good for either humans or pets. The high salt levels mean that drinking this kind of “water” can actually cause our pets to become dehydrated very quickly as the sodium levels in their blood rise. This can affect many different organs in the body, and cause symptoms including:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Weakness and wobbliness
  • Confusion
  • Seizures
  • Collapse

The most common cause of saltwater toxicity is from pets drinking seawater. Usually, this happens when dogs go to visit the beach, and either spend a lot of time running and playing in the sea or choosing to drink seawater.

To avoid this, make sure your dog takes regular breaks from playing in the sea, and offer them plenty of fresh water to drink instead. Do not allow your dog to drink seawater.


Summer can be a great time to spend more time with our pets, but there can be some hidden dangers lurking in the sun and the sea. Be very careful to avoid your pets overheating, and only play water-based games in moderation. If you are going to the beach, make sure to bring lots of fresh water for your dog to drink, and do not let them drink from any seawater pools.