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Summer safety tips

Summer safety tips

As pet parents we love to enjoy the warm weather with our pets. However, summer can bring unique risks to their health. The Animates Vetcare team have compiled a list of common hazards you might see during summer and safety tips to help keep your pet safe, comfortable, and carefree 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