SPCA New Zealand

SPCA’s top tips for pets this summer

01 December 2021
SPCA’s top tips for pets this summer

It’s summertime!

Just like us, animals love the warmer weather, and it’s so lovely seeing our furry companions out and about with their families during the holidays. Make sure your furry friends’ summer gets off on the right paw by taking a few extra steps to ensure their health and comfort before you set out on your sunny adventures together.

Hot hours

The sun is at its fiercestbetween 10am and 4pm, so be extra vigilant with your pet between these times. Keep a close eye on pets who are older, overweight, flat faced, or have thick fur, who might struggle in the heat.


Providing adequate shelter year-round comes under the Codes of Welfare and is considered an essential part of animal ownership. However, In New Zealand, it is routine to see animals kept outside without any shade or shelter in both the extremes of summer and winter.

All animals, from pets to livestock, need to have adequate shelter that protects them from the weather, including sun, wind and rain. Ensure there are plenty of places for your animals to hide from the heat of the sun to avoid overheating, sunburn, and horseflies. Trees are a good form of shade, as are human-made shelters that do not have enclosed sides.

If you keep your dog outside, it is critical that they have access to good shade. Dog kennels are not good shelter during the summer as they can trap heat. Tree shade and tarpaulins are ideal because they don’t obstruct air flow.

If your cat has access to the outdoors, make sure they have plenty of shade outside such as trees and bushes. If your cat is looking for shade indoors, close some of your blinds and curtains to provide them with a cool spot in the house to snooze.

If your small animals live outside, you can improve ventilation of their hutch or coop by putting bricks or something similar underneath, bringing it off the ground and allowing air to circulate underneath. Also, make sure their hutch or run is in the shade all day by moving it around as the sun moves.

If you have farmed animals, such as cows or sheep, make sure there is enough room for all of them to lie down in the shade at the same time. On a hot day, shade is a valuable resource and some animals may bully others to control access.


Our pets always need access to fresh water, and in summer this is crucially important. Pets should always have clean water that is in a shady spot. Most pets also like large bowls and some animals, particularly cats, can find drinking out of small containers unpleasant. While all pets like cool, clean water, cats can be very particular, – they prefer their water bowl to be kept in a separate location from their food and litter tray and some even prefer drinking flowing water.

Having multiple water bowls around the house will also help to encourage them to take regular sips. Making doggie ice blocks are also a great way to keep dogs hydrated – just freeze your dog’s favourite treat in water, inside dog toys like a Kong, or an ice-cream container. Also remember to take water and a travel water bowl on summertime walks.

Hot weather also brings with it the dangers of algae blooms in still water or shallow rivers, particularly after periods of little rainfall. Check Council websites for alerts about algae blooms in your area. If the Council has an alert, or if you think you have spotted algae, there are a few simple steps you can follow to keep your dog safe;

  • keep your dog on a lead and out of the water
  • ensure your dog does not eat any algae in the water or at the water’s edge.

Paws for thought

Hot ground and black sand can burn the pads of your pet’s paws and leave them sore, blistered and red. Check if it is a safe temperature for them to walk on by holding the back of your hand on the pavement or sand for five seconds. If it is too hot for you to hold your hand there, your pet shouldn’t be out walking on it!

Never leave your dog in a hot car

You should never leave your dog in a hot car unattended. It takes only minutes for a pet left in a vehicle on a warm day to succumb to heatstroke and suffocation. On a 30°C day, temperatures in a car parked in the shade with the windows down can exceed 39°C in less than five minutes, and in 30 minutes it can go up to a deadly 49°C. This can occur even in the shade and if you have left the windows open.

Dog owners can also be fined $300 if they leave their dogs in the car. SPCA officers have the right to hand out infringement notices and fines to people who do this. Bystanders worried about dogs trapped in hot cars should call the police or SPCA immediately.

The best option is to leave your dog at home. If you must take your dog with you in the car, bring fresh water and a non-spill water dish for them, and take your dog with you when you leave the car. If you love your dog, don’t leave them in a hot car.


Dogs don’t just die in hot cars. Recent research shows that exercising dogs in the summer heat can also put them at risk of heat stroke, particularly if they are older or brachycephalic (flat-faced). To keep them safe, SPCA recommends exercising your dog early in the morning or in the evening when temperatures are cooler.

Exercise your pets early in the mornings or in the evenings to avoid the heat of the day. Avoid long and strenuous walks on hot, sunny days, and steer clear of prolonged sun exposure. Take your pets to an area that has shade or a place for them to swim so they can take a break to cool off, and if they want to slow down or stop, follow their lead. Also, avoid walking animals on hot tarmac or sand as this can burn their feet.


The obvious signs of a dog who is suffering heatstroke are excessive panting and showing signs of discomfort, such as restlessness and shade-seeking behaviour. They may also be lethargic, drool excessively, have dark red gums, vomit, have diarrhoea, or uncoordinated movement. More severe symptoms include loss of consciousness and seizures, and a body temperature of over 40°C is often fatal.

Cats struggling in the heat will pant and have sweaty feet, as this is how they release heat. If your cat appears restless or is grooming herself excessively, she may be in danger of heatstroke. You might also notice a rapid pulse and breathing, vomiting, stumbling and lethargy.

Any hot environment can cause heatstroke, with hot cars being a particularly dangerous place for pets to be left alone in. Brachycephalic (flat-faced) dogs are at higher risk of heatstroke and owners should be extra careful to keep their dogs cool when taking them on car trips and avoid exercising them in warm temperatures.

If your pet starts to show any signs or symptoms of heatstroke, take them out of the hot environment they’re in and into a cool, shady place, wet their fur with water or put a wet towel over them to cool them down, give them plenty of water to drink, and contact your local veterinarian immediately.


Pets that are fair-skinned or light-haired are particularly susceptible to the sun’s harsh rays. Skin cancer can occur commonly in dogs and cats, so your pet needs a sunblock applied every three to four hours to areas of their body that have no, or little, hair-covered spots.

Normal sunscreen can include ingredients which are toxic to animals, so a pet-friendly sunscreen should be used. Rub sunscreen on the tips of their ears, on the end of their nose, and on their stomach – these are the most commonly sunburnt areas.

Summer viruses, worms, fleas

Canine Parvovirus is an often fatal, highly contagious illness, at its peak during the warmer months. It is transmitted from dog to dog mainly through contact with the faeces or vomit of an infected canine. Just taking your dog for a walk down the street, or to the park, can put them at risk of contracting the disease if they are not fully vaccinated.

Parvovirus symptoms include lethargy, severe vomiting, and bloody diarrhoea that results in life-threatening dehydration.

Protect your dog by making sure your dog is up-to-date on vaccinations, and ensure your puppy does not go outside until they have had all the required shots. If you are not sure if your dog is fully vaccinated or you have concerns about their health, contact your veterinarian for advice.

Also be sure to keep on top of flea and worm treatments for all your pets in summer, as these parasites are more prevalent in warmer weather.

Protect your pet from karaka berries

When walkingyour four-legged-friends this summer, it's important to be aware of Karaka tree berries. Throughout the warmer monthsthe berries ripen, turn orange and fall off the trees. They can be fatal if eaten by dogs.

These native trees are a vital food source for Kereru;however they are very toxic if eaten by other animals. We advise if you have spotted any Karaka trees in your local area, to keep your dog on the lead or take them to an alternative location for a walk.

Signs of Karaka berry poisoning include weakness, vomiting, confusion and convulsions.These symptoms can be delayed by a day or two, so even if they are not yet showing symptoms, if youhave any concerns that your pet may have eaten any, please seek veterinary treatment immediately.

Be wary of long, seeding grass

Pet owners should try to avoid long grass on walks, especially after a long dry summer when grasses are seeding. Injuries relating to these pesky seeds are a common problem for dogs over the warmer months, and can cause life-threatening damage if not spotted quickly.

It’s most common for the seeds to become embedded in a dog's paws or fur, but it can be particularly serious if they migrate through the body or became lodged in the animal's lungs.

For long-haired pets, it can help to keep hair short around their ears, paws, and legs. When coming home after a walk, groom your dog immediately and check thoroughly for any seeds, especially between foot pads and around ears and face. If you find any seeds penetrating through the skin, gently remove them with tweezers and ensure the seed is whole, as any small piece may cause a reaction.

If you notice your dog is licking or chewing at a sore place, sudden onset of lameness or if you suspect your dog may have a seed in his or her eyes or ears, contact your vet immediately.

Looking for more helpful tips and advice? Visit SPCA's Advice and Welfare portal!

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