14 Jan 2015

Pets need sunscreen too - vets

7:01 am on 14 January 2015

Vets are warning pet owners not to forget the slip-slop-slap message for their animals.

Cats and dogs can suffer heatstroke.

Cats and dogs can suffer heatstroke. Photo: AFP

As well as providing pets with shade and fresh air and water this summer, owners should remember pets need sunscreen too, the New Zealand Veterinary Association said.

The association said summer should be a fun time for people and their pets.

"It's timely to remind owners that pets are very sensitive to the heat and their comfort and safety can be compromised. If you think it's hot outside, it's even hotter for your pet," said Dr Cath Watson, President of the NZVA Companion Animal Society.

Dr Watson said while there was high awareness about the need for people to apply sunscreen daily to avoid skin cancer, it was less known that animals were also susceptible to sun-related cancers.

"Sunscreens are available for pets which can be applied to the areas of the skin with little or no hair like the nose, mouth, ears and on the belly."

However, she said avoiding direct sunlight was still the best way to protect a pet.

Water and Exercise

Pets should have access to cool, fresh, clean water all the time, regardless of the weather, but it was particularly critical in summer.

"They should have easy access to plenty of cool shade and shouldn't be kept in the sun for long periods," said Cath Watson.

SPCA Whangarei dog - adopted out in September 2014

Photo: SPCA

Owners should avoid excessive exercise for dogs on hot days, and walk them during the cooler hours, either early morning or evening.

"Summer isn't suited to intense exercise - do it at an easier pace and if temperatures hit the 20s or higher don't take them running," said Dr Watson.

"In summer you need to monitor your pet during exercise for signs of exhaustion, such as heavy panting, and if necessary to stop exercising and provide them with immediate shade and water. It's a great idea to carry a bottle of water with you."

Overheating and heatstroke

Signs of heatstroke could include heavy panting and drooling, glazed eyes, difficulty breathing, lethargy, refusal to obey commands, dizziness, lack of coordination, vomiting and collapse.

"Dogs and cats have few sweat glands which means they can't cool off by sweating, like humans do."

Dr Watson said heatstroke was an emergency and owners must act immediately before taking their pet to a veterinarian.

"Wet the coat thoroughly with cool water, and apply towels soaked in cool water to hairless areas such as the groin, tummy and 'armpits'. You should also give them some water to drink in small amounts."

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs