Potential summer poisons

Summer is an exciting time for our pets. It means better weather, longer walks, a wider variety of colour in the fields and more long grass to play in. There are also additional hazards. You should keep a very close eye on young animals or animals that have been moved into a new environment as they may be more excited to investigate new areas while being unaware of their sensitivities or the hazards surrounding them.

Allergies

In the summertime, your pet may suffer from hayfever just as we humans do. It is important to look out for symptoms such as a runny nose, sneezing, itching, hair loss, and redness around the body. If this is the case, you should contact the vet quickly so you can try to prevent the symptoms, as excessive itching can cause lesions and secondary infections. This means that a small allergy can quickly escalate if not treated soon. Some allergies last a lifetime, while in some animals they may become less severe over time.

Plants and Gardens

Herbivores like rabbits and horses are particularly sensitive to ragwort, bracken and horsetail plants, among many others. These different plants cause issues in different organ systems and should be removed from runs, gardens and fields as soon as possible. Mushrooms, when eaten by our pets, may be poisonous, be aware of this if you have a particularly greedy dog and plan to walk through forests. Tomato plants, rhubarb plants, poinsettias, Easter lily, tulips, lily of the valley, oleander, kalanchoe and azaleas can all be fatal to animals if ingested.

Blue-green algae forms a green thick layer on the surface of water and should be avoided. You should not allow your pets to swim or drink from these waters. These algae produce toxins which can cause brain or liver damage, among other problems, and are frequently fatal. This becomes a larger issue in the summer when animals are more likely to enter fresh water.

Applying fertilisers to your garden can be fatal to your pets. It is best to avoid use.

Flea and tick products

In the summer, parasites such as fleas and ticks may become more active, meaning you start using products to deter them. Some ectoparasite products are toxic to cats (especially permethrin), rabbits (fipronil) and some dogs (certain ivermectin-based products in herding dogs) so take care in choosing the correct product. If you know your pet will be coming into contact with another species, and especially if you own two different species, be doubly careful. You should also look out for excessive itching as many dogs and cats are allergic to flea saliva and this should be treated before the itching causes secondary lesions.

Foods

Summer is a time when eating outside becomes more appealing. This means we should be made more aware of which foods are poisonous to our pets. A list of toxic foods would include grapes, raisins, chocolate (particularly dark chocolate), onion, garlic, caffeine, and macadamia nuts… but of course there are many more!

To prevent poisoning, we should make sure we tidy up extremely well following eating outside, making sure our bins are in a secure location and tightly sealed. Avoid giving our pets any of the leftovers. Remember that foods including bones and corn on the cob, while not toxic, can still cause damage as the bones can become lodged in narrow passageways.

Water

Taking your dog for a day out to the beach may seem perfect but please be aware of saltwater toxicity. If your dog or cat, drinks too much salt water, they can develop salt poisoning, which causes vomiting and diarrhoea but often leads to brain injury. You should make sure you carry a bottle of (fresh!) water, especially for your pet to prevent them from drinking salt water and also to prevent dehydration.

Pesticides

Although during spring and summer you want to make the most of the optimum plant growing conditions, applying slug and snail baits may prove poisonous to your pets. Please avoid use when possible or ensure you use them within a confined space which is inaccessible to your pets. The use of rodent poisons is also dangerous. Your pet may become poisoned without eating the poison directly but by eating the body of the dead rodent. You should always stop your animals from eating dead animals, as their cause of death is unknown and may be toxic or infectious.

Venomous Animals

Bee stings may cause a huge reaction in some pets. If so, contact your vet as soon as possible, as the inflammation caused could affect the breathing systems and cause shock and fatality.

While not very common, snake bites do occur in the summer season. Be aware of Adder snakes which normally live in dry, sandy areas.

Heat hazards

While heat is not poisonous, if preventative methods are not undertaken, the effects can be disastrous. NEVER leave a dog alone in a car. Cars heat up extremely quickly in the summertime and this can cause death.

Be aware too of the heat of the pavements. They can get so hot that they burn the pads on the underside of your dog’s paw. If you can not press your hand against the ground for 5 seconds without discomfort, then neither can your pet. Provide some outdoors shade for your pet making sure they always have somewhere to go for shelter from the sun. Be sure to regularly check they have access to fresh, clean water.