Spring is here and with it arrives a few things to be on the lookout for with our four-legged friends.
Just like people, pets can have allergies too. Allergens like pollen, dust, mold, dirt, dander, and more can affect our dogs and cats. Pets that are allergic to pollen will have runny noses and will have itchy ears and noses. Skin allergies are possible if your pet gets into some deep vegetation. Itchy skin, licking at the base of the tail and paws are signs of allergies and can cause a rash. If you see your pet scratching themselves or sniffling and sneezing more than usual as spring rolls on, allergies could be to blame. You’ll want to set up an appointment at your vet’s office promptly so that your pet can be examined. If necessary, allergy medications can be prescribed.
Your pet isn’t the only one looking forward to going outside in the spring, this is the time of year that pests like fleas, ticks, mosquitoes, and parasitic worms like to come out of hiding and latch on to our pets. These critters can cause dangerous infestations and can spread disease among pets and their people. Talk to your vet about preventive measures you can take to make sure your pet isn’t affected by these little creatures. Even if your pet has been treated, they may still carry fleas and ticks in to the house where they can make your life miserable. If you find a tick on your pet, remove it or have a vet take a look.
The most common pest your dog or cat can pick up on a walk—or at home—is fleas. Infestation can be easily prevented and eliminated with a number of products available, including topical treatments to oral tablets. Fleas can cause allergic dermatitis, anemia from loss of blood and spread diseases like bubonic plague (yes, even today!), tapeworms, bartonella, etc.
Ticks are infamous disease spreaders responsible for transmitting Lyme disease, erlichiosis, and Rocky Mountain Spotted fever among others.
Lyme Disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and is transmitted to pets and humans through the bite of infected black-legged ticks. The disease has a variety of symptoms and can be difficult to diagnose and treat. Fortunately, there is a Lyme disease vaccine for dogs.
Another pest you may encounter outdoors is mosquitoes, which can spread diseases, such as heartworm. Dogs with heartworm infections can develop often life-threatening problems over time. The worms grow in the heart and can migrate to other organs.
Animals who share the wonderful outdoors, such as raccoons, coyotes and squirrels, can also transmit internal parasites. As a baby, your pet was dewormed, but that doesn’t mean he has a life-long protection. He can also become infected with parasites later in life. Your veterinarian can test your pet’s stool during an annual exam and, if needed, provide treatment for him.
While some parasites can be a nuisance and a health risk to your pet, they can also affect you. One in particular is Leptospirosis. It is transmitted by a microscopic organism, Leptospira, and its toxins can affect kidneys and liver. The contaminated animal (small mammals, deer and even domestic stock) voids the bladder and spreads live Leptospira, which could come in contact with your dog.
There is an optional vaccine available. However, your dog might have an adverse reaction to it. Therefore, you should discuss the pros and cons of the vaccine with your veterinarian. The best way to avoid Leptospirosis is limiting your dog’s access to contaminated water.
Dogs always seem to have a sort of aroma about them, but some smells are signs that you need to take action. If your dog hasn’t been bathed all winter, treat your dog to some good grooming. If the smell does not subside, consider the following possibilities and contact your veterinarian for assistance:
Notice your pet’s skin and coat—if the skin is smelly, flaky and oily or waxy, he or she may have seborrhea. Treatment involves regular bathing with a medicated shampoo.
Your dog has very bad breath: This is one of the top symptoms of pet dental disease. If your dog’s teeth are dull and yellow or the gums are puffy, bleeding and pulling away from the teeth, your dog needs a professional dental checkup and cleaning as soon as possible. Bad breath can also signal other internal problems such as diabetes or kidney problems, so do not ignore this symptom.
Smelly ears: If your dog’s ears show any sign of redness, pain or swelling along with the smell, he or she may have an ear infection that needs prompt treatment.
Backend smells: Your dog’s anal glands may need to be expressed, or they may be having digestive problems that need to be addressed by your veterinarian.
Sometimes, the products we use to fight off springtime pests are just as dangerous as the pests themselves! Make sure your pet can’t gain access to pesticides, insecticides, rodenticides, and the like—such items can poison our animal companions easily. Also make sure that your pet doesn’t come into contact with plants or grass recently treated with fertilizer or herbicides, and store these products in your garage or shed where pets won’t be able to reach them.
If you treat your lawn with any chemicals, be sure to wait the allotted amount of time before letting your pets play in the grass, or they could suffer poisoning then as well. If possible, try more natural and organic alternatives to chemical yard treatments.
The best part of spring is the opportunity to replant the garden. Do a little research before planting your flowers as some springtime plants can be harmful to your pets. Azaleas, rhododendrons and particularly Easter lilies are toxic to pets and can make them sick. Fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides that keep your plants green can also make your pets ill. If possible, find non-chemical solutions for keeping your plants and pets healthy.
There are more than 700 common yard, house and wild plants that pose a toxic threat of varying degrees to both pets and their people, so go around your home and yard and make sure you know the names of everything you have planted and consider removing, replacing or fencing in any that could be dangerous. You don’t have to get rid of the plants that you love or need, but be aware just in case.
Some common examples include:
Bulb plants (including most varieties of lilies, daffodils, etc.), Tomato plants (the leaves and stems), Azaleas, Castor Beans, Foxglove, Oleander, Mushrooms and fungi, Rhubarb plants, Philodendron
There are many celebrations that take place this time of year that present safety issues. Chocolates, fake grass, and decorations can cause poisoning or intestinal tract blockage if ingested. Be mindful of where you keep these items and warn those celebrating with you of the potential dangers. Many people also buy Easter pets such as chicks and baby bunnies. Have a plan of what you’ll do with these animals after the celebration is over. A novelty for a one-day celebration may become a hefty commitment.
Planning on doing some spring cleaning this season? Remember that household cleaners can be harmful to your pet, just like outdoor chemicals. Use them sparingly and store them where inquisitive pets can’t get to them easily and keep your supply closet closed tight when you’re not using the items inside. Follow the instructions on the label to make sure you’re using them correctly. When cleaning with potentially harmful chemicals, keep your pet elsewhere until all fumes have dissipated.
Along with cleaning, home improvement is also popular during this time of year. Be mindful of staples, paints, nails and insulation that your pet can swallow or hurt themselves with.
It sure is nice to open some windows and let the spring breeze in. Just make sure all of your windows are outfitted with sturdy screens. It’s far too easy for pets and children close to an open window to slip and fall, potentially injuring themselves seriously.
Now that you’re out and about, make sure your pet can be properly identified if they decide they want to explore on their own. Lost pets need ID tags with current information on them and microchip information needs to be up to date. Keep a current photo of your pet for easy identification or in case you have to make flyers.