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Summer safety

Summer safety

The hot summer season in NZ can present some hazards for our pets.


Here are the key watch-outs and safety tips to help keep your pets cool, happy and healthy this summer.

Heat Stroke

Pets love the sun, but the sun isn’t always good for them. Too much time in the sun can overheat them, particularly those with shorter noses such as Pugs, Boston Terriers and Bulldogs. They often enjoy themselves too much and forget to take a break to cool down in the shade or take a second to hydrate, so here are some ideas below on how to cool your pet down.

  • Excersize your dog early in the cooler parts of the day, early in the morning, evening or at nightExercise your dog during the cooler parts of the day, early in the evening or late at night. Test how hot the ground is before you take your dog for a walk. Watch out especially for asphalt during hot weather.
  • Prevent your pet from overheating by encouraging them to stay in shaded areas. Remove them from any environment where they appear to be hot.
  • Cool your pet through their paws and stomach. If your pet appears to be overheating try having them lie on a wet towel and offer them cool water but do not force them to drink it. Never use ice or very cold water, as cooling a pet too quickly can delay the internal cooling of their body.
  • Paddling pools and sprinklers (under supervision) are a fun way to keep your dog cool or you can treat your dog with an ice block (made from chicken or beef stock). Chew toys are also great for freezing.
  • Grooming is essential for your pet, particularly in summer. Regular brushing will help to rid your pet of excess fur which can contribute to overheating. Depending on the thickness of their coat they may benefit from a clip.
  • Like us, all pets can get sunburnt if they lie in the sun for too long particularly in areas where there is little to no fur, or fur that is very light in colour. Cover these areas in pet sunscreen when exposed to the sun. Only use pet sunscreen as regular sunscreen can be toxic to animals.


It is important to keep your pet hydrated. Different animals have different needs in the heat. Thicker and darker coats do absorb more heat than the lighter coats so you need to ensure you keep a close eye on them.

Ensure your pet always has access to fresh, clean waterIf your pet is overweight, there is a increased risk of dehydration, so encourage them to take regular water breaks. Carry a water bottle with you at all times, especially when on a walk and in the car.

A lot of pets' are tempted by running water, if your pet loves drinking from a tap, a fountain is a great idea for encouraging them to drink with the added benefit of continuous access to fresh water. 

Alternatively if they are not a fan of water, the easiest way to ensure they are hydrated is by including wet food to their diet, it is an important source of moisture.  

Watch for signs of dehydration
Dogs do not sweat, instead they pant. Excessive panting and drooling with a dry nose are obvious signs that they might be dehydrated or overheated. If they are also lethargic with bloodshot eyes, visit your local Animates Vetcare clinic for advice.

Here's a simple tip to see how hydrated your pet is: gently slide your finger across your pet’s gums; dry, sticky gums or unusal colouring can be a sign of dehydration. Press their gums and the colour should return within two seconds, if this takes longer it can also be a sign of dehydration.

If you are worried that your pet is dehydrated or sick, contact your local Animates Vetcare clinic.

Dehydration and heat stroke is a common problem in pets throughout summer. To prevent this ensure your pet always has access to fresh, clean water, particularly, when walking or traveling with your dog. Pay special attention to breeds which are more susceptible to dehydration for example short-nosed dogs, like Pugs, Boston Terriers, and Bulldogs. You'll also want to keep an eye on pets that are darker-colored, overweight or pets with thick coats like Himalayan or Persian cats.

Additional ways to cool your pet:

  • Cool pads
  • Mini pools
  • Sprinklers
  • Fans
  • Icepacks
  • Cool toys
  • Frozen treats
  • Cover pet with a wet towel, or hose their feet and stomach to cool them from feet up

Keep an eye out for these symptoms:

  • Excess lethargy
  • Decreased urination
  • Dry gums
  • Refusal to eat
  • Sunken eyes
  • Decreased skin elasticity



Always stay close to your pet, you know their limits

Did you know that not all animals like to swim?

Not even dogs have mastered the doggie paddle as we humans have. Especially Pugs and Terriers, swimming is not their favourite pastime. So if you are taking your pet to the beach for the first time, make sure that you have a flotation device for them (even a pet life jacket) and make sure their head is above water to ensure they do not consume sea water. 

If your pet likes to swim in your pool, ensure you always rinse them off with the hose after as chlorine, salt and bacteria in pools and lakes can be harmful.

Once your pet has finished their swim, make sure they have a shady area nearby where they can cool off and access to fresh water, as drinking salt water and pool water can cause health problems (just like humans).

Safety swimming tips for your dog:

  • Know the area where you are swimming, as you need to be familiar with the location (e.g. rocks, depth etc), or ask someone there before your pet jumps in.
  • Keep an eye on the tide and the current, you do not want your pet to get caught in a sea rip or a sandbar.
  • Always stay close to your pet, you need to know their limits.
  • Keep them hydrated, they may be in water, but they need fresh water to drink.
  • Praise them for drinking normal water and deter them from drinking sea water; it can cause vomiting and diarrhoea.
  • If you are going on a boat, a pet life jacket is highly recommended.
  • Check the shoreline for glass and potentially dangerous items.
  • If you are near a land bank, ensure they do not go into hidden areas where poison could be left for rats or possums.
  • Have fun, if you're having fun it will calm your pet’s nerves and let them relax to have fun too.

Travel Safety

  • Prevent the preventable; avoid car sickness by travelling on an empty stomach - it's best not to feed your pet for 4-6 hours before travel.
  • Turn down the music, it will sound much louder for your pet.
  • Bring you pet's usual food and water from home to prevent an upset stomach.
  • Keep track of them by ensuring their ID tags, Microchips and Registrations are up to date.
  • Ensure your pet is protected by vaccinations and parasite treatments.
  • Double check your dog's harness is secure in the car.
  • Take a break with your pet, make sure they have plenty of toilet stops during the trip to stretch their legs and grab a drink.
  • Keep them cool with windows open or air conditioning for ventilation.
  • Ensure that they are not sitting in the sun and their spot is shaded.
  • If you're concerned your pet is overheating, most pets cool from their paws up, so just put a little water on them to cool them down.


Summer Hazards

As pet parents, we love to take our pets away with us on holiday, or get out and about with them. However, with new locations, comes new hazards.

Karaka BerryKaraka berries
Karaka berries will turn orange and fall off the trees during the months of January to April. These berries remain toxic for a long time after they have fallen from the tree.

Symptoms are quite often delayed by 24–48 hours, but can be fatal if not treated in time.


  • Weakness or vomiting.
  • Confusion.
  • Back leg paralysis.
  • Convulsions.

If you see your dog eating Karaka berries contact your veterinarian immediately as they might be able to induce vomiting before the toxin takes affect.

If you have not seen your dog eat the berries, but suspect they have – still take them to the vet, where they can perform a range of tests. The best course of treatment can then be decided which may include antibiotics, antacids, intravenous fluids, enemas, and activated charcoal, sedation or muscle relaxants. 

wandering Jew TradescantiaWandering Jew weed
Also known as Tradescantia or Wandering Willie, it is a dark green creeping ground weed with shiny, smooth oval leaves with pointed tips. White flowers blossom in the months of December and January, however Wandering Jew does not produce fruit or seeds in New Zealand. Commonly found on the undergrowth on the banks of rivers Wandering Jew is an invasive species and will spread quickly. If your dog comes into contact with the plant it can cause allergic dermatitis which can be extremely itchy and uncomfortable.


  • Red and itchy skin most commonly under the stomach and in the groin area. 

Although Aloe Vera or Oatmeal Shampoo may help, you will need to contact your local vet as usually the dog will require medication to control the itch and prevent secondary skin infections due to the skin being broken while scratching.

Cyanobacteria Stagnant discoloured waterCyanobacteria, stagnant or discoloured water  
Cyanobacteria (toxic algae) is found in rivers, lakes and waterways throughout New Zealand. Its flowers are widespread and can be toxic to animals and humans.

Dogs are especially prone to poisoning from Cyanobacteria as they love to play in and around water.


  • Lethargy.
  • Muscle tremors.
  • Fast breathing.
  • Twitching or convulsions.

Compost, fertilisers and pesticidesCompost, fertilisers and pesticides
Pets, in particular dogs, love investigating interesting smells in the garden particularly when there are blood and bone fertilisers (ground animal products) or food smells in compost bins. Most fertilisers and pesticides contain chemicals which are poisonous to your pets. Mouldy food in compost bins can also contain harmful toxins. 


  • Lethargy.
  • Vomiting or diarrhoea.
  • Increased breathing and heart rate.
  • Salivation.
  • Inco-ordination.
  • Muscle tremors or convulsions.
  • Loss of consciousness.

If your pet is showing these symptoms or you suspect they have been exposed to toxins it is vital that you take them to your local veterinarian immediately. Do not wait for symptoms to develop.  

Bee and wasp stingsBee stings
The buzzing of a bee can attract your pet’s attention and their desire to investigate and chase. Unfortunately, this can result in a sting, which in most cases will cause swelling and temporary pain but is not dangerous. However multiple stings, a sting in the mouth or throat, or an allergic reaction will require a visit to the veterinarian for treatment. It is important that you monitor your pet after a sting and if concerned contact your veterinarian for advice.


  • Swelling is particularly dangerous for your pet. If stung in the mouth or throat it can block your pet’s airway making it difficult to breathe. A large amount of swelling that extends past the site of the sting can also indicate an allergic reaction
  • Weakness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Extreme irritation; scratching at the site of the sting and pulling out fur

If your pet is showing these symptoms or you are concerned about a sting take them to your local veterinarian immediately. If necessary pull the stinger out by scraping it with a fingernail or stiff piece of cardboard. Avoid using tweezers as this can release more venom.

An icepack can help to reduce both swelling and pain and a weak mix of baking soda and water can be applied onto the wound to further reduce pain. 

Dogs are at risk of jellyfish stings not only when swimming, but also by coming into contact with washed up tentacles on the beach. Jellyfish stings can cause great discomfort to your dog and be painful around the eyes, nose, mouth and paws.


  • Red skin
  • Swelling or hives
  • Hairless stomach

Sea slugsSea slugs
There are many different species of sea slugs in New Zealand; however Pleurobranchaea maculata is the species which has commonly been linked to dog fatalities on Auckland beaches since 2009. It is currently unknown whether all sea slugs of this species are toxic or whether it is only the ones which are found in the North Shore and Coromandel area. Sea slugs naturally produce the toxin Tetrodotoxin (TTX) which is also found in pufferfish. This is to prevent predators such as fish eating them as they are particularly vulnerable due to being softbodied and slow-moving.

TTX is also poisonous to humans even if consumed in small doses.


  • Increase in sensitivity to the sensory stimulants
  • Involuntary muscle contraction and relaxation
  • Seizures
  • Involuntary eye movement
  • Diarrhoea

Summer is here, and it's the perfect time to enjoy the great outdoors with our furry companions. But as the temperatures rises, we need to be aware of the potential summer hazards and the effects that hot weather can have on our pets.


In hot environments like unshaded backyards or cars, pets can quickly feel the effects of rising temperatures. Heatstroke occurs when a pet's body temperature rises to a dangerous level, and it can be life-threatening if not addressed promptly.

Here’s our top tips to staying cool and preventing heatstroke:

  1. Hydration: Provide plenty of cool, fresh water in multiple plastic or terracotta bowls or buckets, add ice blocks and take cold water and a bowl with you on outings.
    Indoor time: Keep pets indoors in a cool area during the hottest part of the day. Do not leave pets inside hot, closed houses - ensure good airflow in indoor spaces with fans or air conditioning.
  2. Avoid exercise when its hot outside: Early morning and evenings are the best time for walks to avoid the heat of the day.
    Shade: Prevent your pet from overheating by encouraging them to stay in shaded areas. Remove them from any environment where they appear to be hot.
  3. Never leave your pet in a car: On a hot day, temperatures inside a car can quickly become deadly.
  4. Grooming: Mats and tangles can trap heat in your pet's coat. Regular grooming can help remove excess fur and keep pets cooler. Depending on the thickness of the coat, your pet may benefit from a clip.
  5. Frozen treats: Offer your pet some frozen treats like ice cubes with a dash of chicken broth or yogurt for a refreshing snack. 
  6. Avoid tethering: Don’t tether your pet or leave them outside on hot days.
  7. Cooling products: Use pet cooling mats, cooling vests, or cooling bandanas to help regulate your dog’s body temperature.
  8. Paddling pools: Provide a shallow pool or container of water for pets to cool off in.


Warning signs

Recognise the signs of heat stress and act fast - quick action could save your pets life!

Early signs of heatstroke in pets can include:

  • Panting and heavy breathing
  • Pacing, restlessness or agitation, seeking shade or water
  • Excessive drooling
  • ‘Brick’ red gums or tongue
  • Increased heart rate
  • Vomiting or diarrhoea

Advanced stages of heatstroke can include:

  • Confusion, lethargy, weakness or collapse and seizures. 

Note: Cats show very similar signs, although it can be harder to identify heat stress in felines.


How you can help

If your pet shows signs of overheating, take immediate action by following these steps:

  1. Cool location: Move your pet to a cool, well-ventilated place or use a fan.
  2. Hydration: Offer them small sips of water; avoid forcing them to drink.
  3. Cool water bath: If your dog is young and healthy, start bathing or sponging them with cool water.
  4. Evaporation technique: If your pet is older or has health issues, try the evaporation method. Pour water (cooler than your pet's body temperature) and use a breeze, fan, or air conditioning for evaporative cooling.
  5. Avoid ice-cold water: Do not plunge your dog into cold water or an ice bath, as this actually prevents their core (central) temperature going down.
  6. Contact your vet: Call your veterinarian for guidance once you've started these steps. Even if your pet appears fine, have them checked, as severe heatstroke signs may not show immediately.


Pets at higher risk of heat stroke | Extra special care must be taken with brachycephalic pets (dogs and cats with short faces) such as French Bulldogs, Pugs, Boxers, Pekingese, Persians and Himalayans. These breeds have a huge risk of heat stroke as their ability to breathe is compromised via their relatively ‘squished’ small head and throat.


Sun Safety

Just like humans, pets can get sunburned when exposed to the sun for too long. While any dog or cat can get sunburned, some pets have a higher risk including hairless breeds like Sphynx cats or Chinese Crested dogs, animals with white fur, pink-skinned pets, those with pink noses, and pets with very short hair (whether natural or cut).

Here are some tips to prevent pets from getting sunburned:

  1. Pet sunscreen: Protect your pet from sunburn by applying pet-safe sunscreen to exposed areas to the tips of the ears, nose, belly, and groin areas. Only use pet sunscreen as regular human sunscreen can be toxic to animals.
  2. Limit sun exposure: Ensure that your pet always had access to shaded areas and avoid taking your pet outside during the hottest part of the day, typically from late morning to mid-afternoon.
  3. Rash shirt: Consider investing in a dog rash shirt protect your pet from the sun's rays.



During the summer heat, pets lose moisture primarily through panting as they work to cool themselves. Additionally, hot weather can reduce their appetite, leading to lower fluid intake and dehydration. This combination of factors makes staying well-hydrated vital for your pet's health and well-being.

Here are our tips to help your pet stay hydrated in summer:

  1. Clean and accessible water: Always provide fresh, clean water in a clean bowl. Change the water regularly, especially during hot days.
  2. Wet food: Consider incorporating wet food into your pet's diet during summer. It contains more moisture than dry kibble.
  3. Water play: Encourage your pet to stay hydrated through play. Some pets enjoy splashing around in a kiddie pool or a shallow container of water.
  4. Use a water fountain: The flowing water of a pet water fountain can be enticing to pets and encourages them to drink, with the added benefit of continuous access to fresh water.
  5. Hydration on the go: Always bring a pet water bottle and a collapsible bowl when walking or traveling with your dog.



While exercise is essential for your pet’s well-being, strike a balance between exercise and safety during the warmer months.

 5 Second Rule | If you can’t place the back of your hand on the pavement for 5 seconds, it is too hot to walk your dog. Remember, if it’s too hot for you, it’s too hot for your pet!

Here are some tips for keeping your pets active and safe during the summer:

  1. Early morning or late evening: Plan your pet's exercise routine during the cooler parts of the day, such as early morning or late evening. This minimises their exposure to scorching midday temperatures.
  2. Shorter walks: Consider shorter but more frequent walks. This way, your pet can stay active without getting too fatigued in the heat.
  3. Indoor play: On exceptionally hot days, engage your pet in indoor activities in a cool air-conditioned room. Interactive toys, treat puzzles, or hide-and-seek games are great options.
  4. Avoid overexertion: Be attentive to your pet's cues. If they seem to be excessively panting or fatigued, it's time to take a break and cool down.
  5. Hydration: Always carry water and a portable bowl during outdoor activities.
  6. Paw protection: Pavement and sand can become scorching hot in the summer. Your dog’s feet can get burnt and blistered on the hot ground, particularly hot pavements, asphalt or scorching beach sand. 


Water Safety

Contrary to popular belief, not all dogs are born swimmers. Breeds with short snouts, such as Bulldogs and Pugs, may struggle in the water. For this reason, always consider your pet's breed and individual comfort level around water.

Here are some tips to keep your pet safe during water and beach activities:

  1. Supervision: Always keep a watchful eye on your pet, especially in unfamiliar water environments. Quick intervention can prevent accidents. Watch your pet closely to ensure they don’t eat any pufferfish, jellyfish or other sea creatures. Take care as fishermen may leave bait or hooks buried in the sand.
  2. Canine life jacket: Invest in a well-fitting canine life jacket, especially if you're boating or in areas with strong currents. This extra layer of safety provides buoyancy and ensures your pet stays afloat.
  3. Boating precautions: If boating, ensure your pet wears a life jacket and familiarise them with the boat before setting sail. Keep them within the boat's boundaries for safety.
  4. Drinking seawater: Discourage your pet from drinking seawater. While it may seem tempting, it can lead to dehydration and upset stomach.
  5. Eating sand: Prevent your pet from eating sand, which can lead to digestive issues or even blockages.
  6. Rinse off: Our furry friends’ skin can also become irritated when the saltwater dries, so be sure to give them a rinse down or bath when you get home.
  7. Never force your pet to swim: Don’t ever force your dog into the water, as it will only increase their fear, and may prevent them from entering the water in the future. Respect their pace, and let them decide when they're ready to dip their paws in. Patience and positive reinforcement can go a long way in making water activities enjoyable for your furry friend. For tips on how to teach your dog to swim, click here.


Travelling with pets

Travelling with your furry friend can be a fun experience for both you and your pet, but it comes with its own set of considerations and potential hazards.

To ensure a safe and enjoyable journey, here are our top tips:

  1. Hot cars kill | On a warm day, the inside of your car heats up very quickly. In only a matter of minutes, this heat can kill an animal. Never leave your pet in the car - make other arrangements, or safely leave your dog at home.Never leave pets in the car: Never leave your pet alone in a parked car, even if it's for a short period. Temperatures inside a car can quickly become dangerously hot. 
  2. Buckle up: Make sure your dog is safely secured in the car with a harness and a dog seatbelt or in a crate, carrier or booster seat.
  3. Fresh air: Make sure your dog is cool throughout the trip – a rolled down window or air vent is ideal.
  4. Frequent breaks: Take a break every two hours so they can go to the bathroom, stretch their legs, and have a sniff.
  5. Pack the essentials: Bring along some water, a portable water bowl, treats, poop bags and their favourite toy. Plus, a harness, collar and lead.
  6. Stay hydrated: Offer your pet plenty of water throughout the trip.
  7. Car sickness: Avoid feeding your pet 4-6 hours prior to travel to help avoid car sickness (water is fine of course).
  8. Avoid loud music: Pets have sensitive hearing, so keep the volume at a comfortable level for your pet.


Environmental hazards

In New Zealand, there are several plants and environmental factors that can be toxic to pets, especially during the summer months.

Some common hazards to watch-out for include:

Karaka berries: Karaka berries will turn orange and fall off the trees during the months of January to April. These berries are extremely toxic to dogs and remain toxic for a long time after they have fallen from the tree.

Here are our top tips to keep you pet safe: 

  • Be vigilant on walks and look out for Karaka trees. Avoid any area where you know Karaka trees are situated. 
  • If you cannot avoid going past an area where Karaka trees are, put your dog on a short lead and keep them by your side at all times to reduce the chances of accidental ingestion. 
  • Keep a toy or treat with you to keep their attention on you whilst you walk through this high-risk area. 
  • Make sure your friends and family are aware of the risks of Karaka berries if they are taking your dog for a walk on your behalf.
  • Signs of Karaka berry poisoning include confusion, weakness, vomiting, hind leg paralysis and convulsions. There can be a delay of 24-48 hours between berry consumption and symptoms. If you suspect your dog has ingested Karaka berries, contact a vet immediately. Learn more here.

Watch out for Karaka berries whilst walking your dog in summer | If your dog ingests ANY part of a Karaka berry, fleshy fruit, husk or seed, take them to a Vet immediately.


Bee stings and insect bites: Bees, wasps, and other insects can sting or bite pets, causing pain, swelling, and, in some cases, allergic reactions.

Toxic algae: Some bodies of water may develop toxic blue-green algae blooms during warm weather, which can be deadly if ingested by pets. Avoid letting your pet drink from or swim in stagnant ponds, rivers or lakes with visible algae blooms. Always be vigilant and look for warning signs posted by local authorities. Learn more here.

Lillies: Lilies are extremely dangerous to cats and can cause complete kidney failure in less than 3 days. All parts of this classic Christmas flower could spell trouble for your cat - the stem, the leaves, the flowers, the water in the vase, and even grooming the pollen off their fur!  If you suspect your pet has licked, touched, ingested or chewed a poisonous plant, contact your vet immediately.

Jellyfish: Dogs are at risk of jellyfish stings not only when swimming, but also by coming into contact with washed up tentacles on the beach. The stingers on the jellyfish can continue reacting for several weeks after the jellyfish itself dies.

Rodenticides and insecticides: These chemicals, used to combat pests in summer, can be toxic if ingested by pets. Make sure to store these products secure location that is inaccessible to your pet. During and after applying insecticides or rodenticides, keep your pet away from treated areas until it's safe to return. Ensure they don't ingest or come into contact with the chemicals.


The summer season brings its own set of challenges for our furry companions. By being aware of the potential hazards and implementing these safety tips, you can make sure your pets have a happy and healthy summer! If you notice any unusual behaviour in your pet over the summer, please contact your local Animates Vetcare clinic

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