I'm a vet – your dog risks painful heatwave injury if you fail my '5-second' test… and four other crucial warnings | The Sun

I'm a vet – your dog risks painful heatwave injury if you fail my '5-second' test… and four other crucial warnings | The Sun

August 10, 2022

HEAT is hard enough to deal with, but when it comes to pets, owners need to stay sharp to keep them safe.

And with the temperatures set to soar to 35C, vets are warning about the risks to our favourite furry friends.

TV vet Rory Cowlam told The Sun: "Heat is a threat to all animals – be they cats and dogs or smaller furries that live inside or in hutches.

"It's really concerning to see how some animals suffer during the summertime. But lots of things can be stopped with some simple common sense."

To avoid putting your pet in harm's way, our team of vets reveal the summer hazards pet owners need to look out for.

Scorching surfaces

Hot weather can dramatically increase the temperature of surfaces animals typically like to walk on.


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Rory says it's best to avoid taking your dog out during the warmest hours and to avoid letting them tread on pavements or tarmac.

The CBBC vet added: "If you do take your dog out when it's too hot they will just push through for you.

"Because they're only putting their paws on for short bursts at a time, they may not feel it.

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"The burn builds up and it can be really serious and it will be really painful for them."

To check if it's too hot, he advises putting the back of your hand on the pavement for up to five seconds, and if you can't hold it there then it is too hot to take your pooch out in it.

Joli Pet Care Vet Samantha Webster advises encouraging your dog to wear 'booties' to protect their paws too.

Four Paws UK recommends refrigerating a ceramic tile or piece of slate for them to lie on and putting it in a shady area.

Tall grass torment

Another big pest for canines in summer is grass seeds, which often get stuck in their paw pads and can cause infections.

They start appearing in late July and stick around for up to six weeks, causing issues for almost all dog breeds.

The seeds are shaped like little arrowheads and lodge themselves in coats, feet and eyes, which can cause infections and abscesses.

Rory said: "We had one dog recently in the clinic that we had to do surgery on because he had managed to get one inside his penis and it was migrating through into his leg and it was causing a real issue.

"They're horrible things and any owner needs to be aware of them. They should always check their dog's coat for the seeds whenever they get home from a walk."

Water worries

Ensuring your dog is hydrated and to cool off is essential – but owners should be wary of letting them gulp water from puddles or ponds in the park.

Recently, pet lovers in London were warned about cloudy patches called blue-green algae in Highams Park, Chingford, which can cause diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, irritation and allergic reactions.

Dr Anna Foreman, Everypaw's in-house vet, added: "There is also the risk of ‘wild’ water being contaminated with rat urine, which can harbour leptospirosis. This can be a deadly condition if contracted by a dog."

Carrying portable water sources is a must – but additionally, canine behaviourist Adem Fehmi, of Rover.com, advised making an ice lolly for your dog from frozen fruit and kibble.

Stuffy cages

While everyone typically thinks of cats and dogs when it comes to excessive heat, Rory says hamsters, guinea pigs and rabbits are at just as much risk.

"They are really prone to overheating and we neglect them a little bit more than our dogs or cats by being more hands-off," he said.

"We put them in a garage or in a small room but these spaces get really hot because there's not much airflow."

He recommends buying grill-based cages to allow air to circulate and to watch out for rabbits lying down in the sun panting and guinea pigs becoming more lethargic.

Most humans struggle to sleep with a quilt during the summer and it's the same for some animals.

Rory advises keeping bedding light for cage and hut-dwelling pets by reducing the amount of straw and hay, which traps heat.

Another issue is that "most small animals poo and wee in their cages" and due to it containing ammonia, which has a low evaporation point, it can be deadly.

Rory said: "If you see your hamster or another small animal coughing or wheezing get them to a vet quickly.

"Ammonia can cause respiratory issues which can get really bad quickly and cause things like scarring to their lungs and other irreversible damage."


Samantha warned that it's vital to check pets' bodies once a day for sores too, as sweaty and sticky conditions can lead to infections.

This particularly applies to hamsters, guinea pigs and rabbits.

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Reptiles especially can suffer "excessive shedding", which can be painful and needs to be treated.

Samantha added: "The main thing is to be sensible really. If you wouldn't do something during a hot day your pet won't want to either."

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