Summer pet care advice from PDSA

PDSA is the UK’s leading veterinary charity, providing free treatment for the pets of people in need. The charity also promotes responsible pet ownership, and with the country enjoying some warmer weather, PDSA is urging owners to consider our furry friends as the temperature rises.

Keeping pets cool in hot weather

PDSA Senior Vet, Elaine Pendlebury, said: “Pet owners need to be aware of the harm that hot weather can cause to pets. Their smaller body size makes them particularly susceptible to heatstroke and they can’t tell us when they’re too hot in their fur coats.  This leaves it up to owners to spot the signs and ensure they remain happy and healthy in the heat.”

To help pets avoid the summertime blues, PDSA has compiled some top tips for owners:

  • Never leave pets in cars, not even for just a few minutes with windows open. You may be delayed and temperatures can soar dangerously high in minutes, causing potentially fatal heatstroke
  • Don’t let pets sit out in strong sun, or leave hutches, runs or cages in direct sunlight.  Make sure there is always access to shade
  • Never put your bird cage close to the window or in direct sunlight – the temperature can quickly soar


  • Make sure pets have access to plenty of clean, fresh water at all times and change water regularly throughout the day
  • Know the signs of heatstroke – excessive panting, extreme salivation, distress and collapse.  If this happens, gradually cool your pet’s body temperature with cool (not cold) water, such as wrapping in water soaked towels that you change frequently, and call your vet for further advice
  • If you have a long-haired pet, get their fur trimmed to prevent them from over-heating
  • Walk dogs in the morning or evening – before 8am and after 5pm is best – not only will this prevent them overheating in the midday sun, but hot road surfaces, pavements and sand can burn paws.
  • Rabbits are prone to maggot infestations (known as flystrike) in the summer. Flies are attracted to dirty fur and lay their eggs, which hatch in to maggots. To prevent this life-threatening condition, check a rabbit’s bottom at least twice daily for dirtiness and maggots. If you spot any maggots call your vet as soon as you can. If their bottom is dirty, clean it gently with a damp cloth

girl with bunny

  • Food can go off very quickly in the heat, so discard any leftovers to avoid flies.
  • Put a nearly full plastic bottle of water into your freezer and then wrap it in a towel.  Lie the bottle down by the side of your small furry pet’s cage, next to the sleeping area.  It’s not a good idea to put the bottle in the cage as it can cause leaks and make the pet too cold.  Put two in the freezer so you’ll always have one available.
  • Take extra care if transporting pets in hot weather – keep windows open when the car is moving, but never let a dog put their head out of the car window. Travel during the coolest times of the day and never leave them in a parked car. For extra protection, add some sun blinds to your car windows.

2 fish

  • Fishponds and aquaria can get very hot in the summer –  check regularly and make sure ponds have shaded areas.

 With a little care and attention, we can ensure our pets have fun and don’t suffer in the sunshine!

cat lying downdogbulldoglying down dog2

Travelling safely with pets over the summer months

Many people love to go away with their pets – whether on day trips or longer holidays.  It’s a great way to spend time with our four-legged friends, but keeping them safe while travelling will help to ensure a fun day for everyone.

PDSA Senior Vet, Elaine Pendlebury, said:

“Car travel can be very dangerous if a pet isn’t restrained. For example, a medium sized dog travelling in a car at 30mph could hurtle forward with the force of a polar bear should the car be involved in a crash!  It’s vital that pets are properly secured when travelling in vehicles to guarantee both their safety, and that of the other passengers.”

Correctly fitted seat belt harnesses are ideal for dogs, while a sturdy good-sized carrier that’s securely positioned in the car is a must for cats.  Here are some more top tips to keep your pets safe and happy on their travels:

  •  Introduce your pet to the car from an early age – allow your pet to explore inside your parked car in their own time, under supervision in a safe area.  Leave the doors open so they can come and go as they please and reward their relaxed behaviour. Gradually build up from this – first, by getting your pet used to the seat belt or carrier, then just turning the engine on to help them get used to  the noise.  When they are comfortable with this, go for a short drive
  • Take dogs for a walk before the journey – this is a good way for your pet to burn off excess energy and prevent them from becoming restless
  • Always ensure your pet is secured before setting out on a journey – using a suitable harness will help keep you, your passengers, and your pet safe from harm in the event of an accident

puppy with bowl

  • Make regular stops – to give your dog a chance to stretch their legs and relieve themselves to prevent ’accidents’ in the car – only exercise on the lead if the area is unfamiliar. Provide plenty of fresh drinking water during breaks. Try this handy travel bowl.
  • Never let dogs lean out of the window of a moving vehicle – their eyes or nose can be injured by debris or small stones kicked up from the road. Pets have also been known to fall out, or be injured by passing vehicles
  • Drive steadily – try not to brake sharply or accelerate too fast as this can be stressful or frightening for your pet

BBQ safety advice

PDSA Senior Veterinary Surgeon, Elaine Pendlebury says:

“Every year PDSA vets see pets with injuries directly associated with barbecues. Pets are brought in suffering from burns, having swallowed objects such as corn on the cob cores or kebab skewers. But a few simple precautions we can help keep our furry friends safe while we enjoy the al fresco dining.”

Here are PDSA’s top tips for keeping pets safe during BBQ season:

  • Skip the scraps – eating barbecue scraps can upset your pet’s stomach.  Undercooked, unfamiliar or fatty food can cause vomiting and diarrhoea. It also adds extra calories to their diet, which can contribute to obesity
  •  Bin it – make sure any leftover food and rubbish isn’t left lying around but securely and safely thrown away in a lidded dustbin well away from pets.  A common barbecue-related problem seen by PDSA vets is pets that have eaten corn on the cob cores that they’ve taken from rubbish bags. These can cause a serious intestinal blockage and have to be surgically removed
  • Don’t be a ‘fuel’ – lighter fluid can be dangerous if drunk, so keep it well out of reach of pets.  Petroleum based barbecue lighter fluid can also cause pneumonia if it’s breathed in as well as causing eye damage and skin burns if they come into contact with a pet
  • Flamin’ hot – playing around a barbecue can lead to severe burns, so pets should be kept well away from flames, burning embers and hot ash. Always make sure that the BBQ is cooled down quickly after use
  • Slap on the sun cream – pets can suffer from sunburn and heatstroke just like humans, so if you’re enjoying the sun ensure your four-legged friends have access to shade and plenty of fresh water.  Pets with white or very thin fur may need to have pet sun cream applied, particularly on exposed areas such as ear tips and noses. Your vet can advise you about this
  • Watch where you put your drink – make sure that glasses and drinks are not within reach of thirsty pets.  Alcohol can be hazardous for pets and glass bottles or china cups can be easily knocked over and break, causing injury

Summer garden safety

We all love to spend time in the garden in the summer months, and our pets are no exception. However, vet charity PDSA is urging owners to help our curious companions stay safe in great outdoors by taking a few simple precautions.

Elaine Pendlebury, PDSA Senior Vet, says:

“Garden treatments and some of our most common plants and flowers can actually pose a serious poisoning risk to cats, dogs and other pets. But a little extra vigilance will ensure that any hazards are kept well out of reach of prying paws.”

PDSA recommends that all green-fingered pet owners carry out a ‘garden audit’ to help eliminate some of these risks:

  • Known your onions – certain plants such as daffodils, lilies, laburnum, cherry laurel, castor oil bush and yew are highly toxic to pets and can even be fatal, so make sure you know the dangers. Members of the onion family will also give pets a poorly tummy if eaten. It’s best to keep these plants out of areas where pets have free access, and check before planting anything new
  • Chemical control – Many pesticides and herbicides can be harmful to pets and other animals, including slug pellets, weedkillers and bug sprays. Try safer alternatives, such as pet-friendly slug pellets if possible. If you need to use chemicals then always read and follow the instructions, and keep pets away from treated areas for the recommended period. Store any chemicals securely and out of reach
  • Physical attraction – broken bottles and sharp stones are obvious hazards, but seemingly harmless objects left lying around can also cause injuries. Cats are always curious and will tend to investigate anything that smells interesting (such as bins with food remains in), whereas dogs are liable to swallow anything that captures their attention! Check regularly for potential hazards and remove these
  • Cocoa shell mulches – these contain high levels of theobromine, a chemical that is highly toxic to pets. Just a few mouthfuls of mulch could kill a Cocker Spaniel! Avoid these where possible, or keep pets away from areas where these are used

To find out more about summer safety for pets, visit

For more information on keeping pets safe and sound in the garden this summer, download PDSA’s free leaflet A Safer Garden for Pets from

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