Summer welfare problems for pets and livestock

Posted on 02/10/2015

Summer is a great time for us to enjoy the sunshine and maybe even get away from it all by going on holiday for a while. But summer isn’t as much fun for many pets and livestock. Every year there are many complaints to the SPCA about owners failing to provide shade and/or water for their animals, or neglecting them when they go on holiday.


With some forward planning, these problems could easily be prevented.  Can you help us by spreading the word about how to make sure our animals enjoy their summer this year? Here are some comments and tips.



  • The most common complaint of all is about dogs in parked cars. When the sun shines dogs left alone in parked cars can suffer fatal heat stress within 15 minutes. Ideally dogs would never be left alone in parked cars, but if it’s necessary for some reason, the car must be parked in permanent shade with the windows open as much as possible.
  • Dogs are sometimes left tied up with no water. Dogs must have plenty of drinking water especially on hot days. They don’t sweat much. They rely on panting to lose heat by evaporation of saliva, so they need water at all times and particularly when it’s hot. 
  • Shade is important too, particularly for long-haired and dark-coloured dogs. Metal dog kennels don’t provide effective protection because they can become like ovens inside. If there is no shade available, shade cloth over part of the run or garden can provide a cooler area.


Horses and livestock

Livestock too can suffer in summer heat:

  • Animals rely on evaporation of fluid to help them lose heat, either by sweating or panting, so they need to drink frequently in hot weather.
  • Horses with heavy covers will be heat-stressed on hot days. Unlike dogs, they can’t pant so they rely on evaporation of sweat to lose heat. This means that horses with thick covers can’t lose heat efficiently. Light porous covers on thin-skinned show horses and racehorses are acceptable.
  • Sheep and angora goats carrying more than one year’s fleece will be heat stressed in hot weather and prone to flystrike in humid weather. They must be shorn before the height of summer.
  • Newly shorn animals need shade to prevent sunburn.



A constant supply of palatable drinking water is really important for all animals in summer.

Water can easily become contaminated - by urine, faeces, algae or dirt. Paddock troughs can trap and drown wild animals like rats and hedgehogs, even baby ducklings. For these reasons, it’s really important to freshen the water supply regularly. Put a long stick in the trough to help trapped animals escape!


Pet care while you are on holiday

You have three options if you want your pet to be safe and happy when you are on holiday:

  • Take your pet with you.  There are motels and camping grounds that allow pets to stay.
  • If your pet is to stay behind, boarding facilities offer some peace of mind - the animals will be cared for and are unlikely to escape. Check before booking that the facility is appropriately heated or cooled, provides clean water and exercise and has a warm, comfortable resting area. Ensure the food will be suitable for your pet and check whether you need to supply bedding. Your pet will need an up-to-date vaccination certificate (any booster shots needed should be given at least 7 days earlier).

o   If your pets are to be cared for at home, you will need a minder who is trustworthy, experienced with caring for animals, and prepared to visit at least once a day and spend a bit of time with them.


If you see any heat-stressed animal, whether it’s a panting dog in a hot car or horses or other livestock obviously distressed by heat then note their whereabouts and contact the SPCA or MPI