Protect your pet from paw-tential summer cat-astrophes

Friday , 14 September 2018 by Jo Lawrence-King

As summer nears and sun safety messaging for humans ramps up, a spate of pet insurance claims shows the need for us to be just as vigilant for our four-legged companions.

Just like people, pets can get dehydrated, sunburnt and eat bad food.

Southern Cross Pet Insurance (SCPI) General Manager Anthony McPhail says although summer is an enjoyable time for pets — with longer days, warmer evenings and their owners being around more — extra care is needed.

“Kiwis have the second highest rate of pet ownership in the world, with 64% of households home to at least one animal companion*, so we clearly have a soft spot for our furry friends,” he says. “But we need to make sure we look after them during a season that can be surprisingly dangerous compared to others.”

Below are some standout claims SCPI has received in the past two summers:

  • At least 10 claims for dogs either being sunburned, suffering from heat stroke, or having their paws burned by the pavement. One of the cases involved a Bulldog that started to vomit and shake from the heat while on a walk. The dog was taken to the emergency veterinary clinic, which resulted in a $1,100 bill.
  • Twelve claims for dogs eating corn cobs. One Collie Cross victim was hospitalised at an after-hours veterinary clinic and underwent surgery, costing more than $6,700.
  • Twelve claims for dogs getting sharp barley grass (aka foxtail grass) seeds embedded in their paws or ears. One Flat Coated Retriever ate more than 50 barley grass seeds, which became embedded in its stomach lining. Surgery to remove the seeds cost more than $2,400.
  • Four claims for pets eating blood and bone fertiliser, and 117 claims for pets eating slug and snail or rat bait. One Labrador Cross’ meal on rat bait costing $5400 for treatment.
  • Thirty-seven claims for dogs and cats swallowing fish hooks or getting them stuck in their lips. One Labrador Cross arrived at the veterinary clinic with a fishing line protruding from its mouth, with the bait and hook in its stomach at the other end. A $4,000 surgery was required.

SCPI recommends owners consider the following tips so their pets can safely enjoy the upcoming summer:

Protect your pet from the heat

Hot footpaths and roads can burn paws so try walking dogs on the grass. An easy test is to put your hand on the foot path — if it’s too hot for your hand, it’s too hot for your pet’s paws. Also, never leave your pet in a parked car. Temperatures inside a vehicle can rise rapidly to dangerous levels, causing organ damage, and even death. On a day where it’s 24 C° outside, the temperature inside a car can rise to 34° within 10 minutes and 40° in 40 minutes. Leaving the windows down makes little to no difference.

Use pet-friendly sunscreen

Skin cancer is common in dogs and cats. Although their fur provides some protection from the sun, their exposed skin is still vulnerable. Apply pet-friendly sunscreen (human sunscreen is toxic to them) to their least hairy spots every three to four hours — nose and bellies on dogs and ears on cats.

Bone Appétit — have a pet safe BBQ

Don’t share your BBQ food. Too many fatty leftovers may cause pancreatitis, which may lead to severe abdominal pain or death. Corn on the cob and peach pits can also lodge in a dog’s intestines. Be aware, Christmas and holiday treats like chocolate and fruit mince pies are toxic to pets.

Watch out for grass seeds

Barley grass seeds are sharp and can embed in eyes, ears, noses, paws and skin, often requiring surgical removal. Check your pet thoroughly after being outdoors, especially if they have been in long grass.

Pet-proof your garden

Pest bait and blood and bone fertiliser are toxic to pets but nevertheless appealing to them. Try to use toxin-free fertiliser, and make sure your pets are indoors when you’re spraying. As for slug, snail and rat bait, keep it out of reach and in a pet-proof container. If you suspect poisoning, make a note of the symptoms, try to identify the toxins and contact your veterinarian for advice.

Hook, line and sinker

Whether it’s sniffing out a baited fish hook, eating a fish with a hook still in it or being attracted to a colourful fly, cats and dogs can inadvertently become the catch. Keep bait, fish and hooks well out of reach and in a secure container. If you suspect your pet has eaten a hook, contact your veterinarian immediately. Swallowed hooks can cause internal injuries and it’s difficult for animals to pass them normally.