The weather's warming up! Make sure you follow our top tips on keeping your dog safe and happy in the hotter months.
1. Be aware of poisonous plants
Take a good look at what is growing in your garden. Dogs don't instinctively know what is good or safe for them to eat - if they did, there would be no cases of poisoning! If your pet is liable to sample plants, remove any that are toxic and replace them with others which will look just as good but do no harm.
2. Keep your garden safe
As well as poisonous plants, your garden may contain other potential hazards including cocoa mulches, compost heaps, and chemicals. Arm yourself with a good book on pet-friendly gardening to ensure that it is a safe environment. Even so, don't leave your dog out there on his own, as there has been a worrying increase in the number of dog thefts from gardens.
3. Don't walk your dog in the heat
Warmer weather means you may need to change your walking habits. It's best not to risk walking your dog in temperatures over 20ºC; and young, senior, large, or overweight dogs, and short-nosed breeds, may struggle at lower temperatures than this. You may need to alter your walking times, ideally going out before 8am and after 8pm.
Pavements heat up quickly in warm weather. Try the seven second tarmac test: hold a bare hand or foot against the pavement - if it's uncomfortably hot for you, then it's too hot for your dog.
If it's getting dusky when you go out, kitting yourself and your dog out with hi-vis clothing is just as important as during the winter months. Hi-vis collars and Sam Browne-style belts let you stay cool while making you more visible to motorists when walking along country lanes. Flashing lights for both of you are also a good idea and will help you keep track of where your dog is if you let him off the lead for a run.
4. Be aware of wild animals
Take extra care on walks as both domesticated and wild animals are likely to be protective of their young. If in an area where deer roam, rutting stags may take exception to your dog's presence.
Snakes can be another hazard; adders are the only venomous ones found in the UK, but live in a wide variety of habitats including woodland areas, moors, heathland, meadows, coastal dunes and hedgerows. They are usually shy and will move away from noise, but should your dog disturb one while it is sunbathing he may get bitten. How serious this is depends on the bite site, and size and health status of your dog, but if you suspect an adder bite, treat it as a veterinary emergency.
5. Be careful around insects
Wasps and bees are also likely to be around, and some dogs are unable to resist the temptation to chase and snap at them. Often this results in nothing worse than a painful sting, which can be relieved with a cold compress, but if stung in the mouth or throat, and swelling interferes with his breathing, or if anaphylactic shock occurs, get your dog to a vet as quickly as possible.
6. Check your dog for ticks and fleas
Ticks and fleas will be more in evidence as the weather warms up. As well as causing localised irritation, fleas can trigger skin allergies and can be an intermediate host to tapeworms, while ticks can cause abscesses and transmit Lyme disease. Check your dog each day for signs of both, buy (and know how to correctly use) a tick-removing tool, and have a chat with your vet about suitable preventative treatments. Look at the same time for any burrs that have lodged in the coat and which will form dense mats that will pull painfully at the skin if left unattended.
Slugs and snails, both out in the countryside and in your garden, can be another potential source of health problems if your dog accidentally ingests one which is infected with lungworm. This is a problem that appears to be on the increase, and not all wormers are effective against them; ask your vet about appropriate products.
7. Carry fresh water
Your dog is likely to get thirstier and drink more when it's warm. But discourage him from drinking from puddles or other dubious water sources which may be contaminated with chemicals or blue-green algae. Carry a supply of fresh water with you to offer him instead. Steer him away from areas of long grass too, once seed heads have begun to form, as they can cause all sorts of problems if they pierce and begin to track up beneath the skin or become lodged in ears, eyes, or noses.
8. Help keep your dog cool
Dedicated sun worshippers don't always have the sense to know when it's too hot for them, so you will need to be sensible on their behalf.
Encourage your dog to move indoors or to a shady area; even then it can still be very warm, and accessories such as cooler mats, reflective coats, and cooling bandannas can help keep him comfortable - and don't forget to apply pet-friendly sunblock if he has any vulnerable areas of exposed skin.
Set up a canopy or patio umbrella to create a nice shady area where you can sit and relax with your dog, doing nothing more strenuous than enjoying each others company. Providing shade over a paddling pool too will help keep the water cooler throughout the day. Add sun shades to car windows as well, although on really hot days it's best to leave your dog indoors at home.
Don't wait until temperatures are soaring and they're all sold out: fans and cool mats can make a big difference. A wet, cool towel draped over your dog can also help cool him down - but don't leave it on as it begins to dry and warm up as it will make him even hotter. He may also like laying on a wet towel placed on the floor if you don't have a cool, tiled kitchen floor for him to lounge on!
How hot is too hot? Dogs don't cope with heat as well as humans do. Buy a garden thermometer so you can see what the outdoor temperature really is - sometimes it's deceptive and it may be hotter than you think.
9. Cool entertainment
If it's too hot to go for a walk or play energetic games in the garden, you can still keep your dog entertained. Invest in a paddling pool - the self-supporting sort sold for dogs don't even need inflating and the plug in the side makes them easy to empty. Rigid plastic children's clam shell type pools are also robust enough to withstand doggy claws - place a rubber bath mat in the bottom so he doesn't slip. Even non-swimmers can have a lot of fun paddling into the shallow water to retrieve floating toys or a few healthy treats such as carrots and apples cut into batons.
Another favourite is a Kong which has been filled with low-fat fruit yogurt and slices of banana and strawberries, and then frozen.
10. Never leave your dog in the car
Think twice about taking your dog with you on outings on hot days - it may be preferable to leave him at home, arranging for someone to pop in and let him out in the garden to relieve himself. It should go without saying that you should never leave your dog in the car, as even when parked in the shade and with the windows cracked open, the temperature and humidity inside can rapidly rise and literally bake him alive.
If you do see a dog in a parked car, take action - if it is outside a shop, ask the staff if they can locate the owner. If no-one can be found, ring the police on 999, or if they are unable to attend, the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999 or if in Scotland, 0300 099 9999 for SSPCA.