Springtime appears to have arrived early this year, but like every year, the enjoyable end to a pretty pathetic winter comes with several considerations to help keep pets safe. Knowing how to anticipate problems and when possible, protect pets from inevitable exposure to annoyances and dangers is an important part of general pet care.
- Allergies: As we throw open the windows to let in the fresh air, we also allow the newly erupting flowers, trees, grasses and molds to bless us with pollens, seeds, and other airborne material. In dogs and cats, as well as in people, this can lead to Springtime allergies. While
sniffling and sneezing and watery eyes is sometimes the end results, dogs and cats have so many histamine receptors in their skin that rashes and other itchy problems are often the first sign of allergies.
- House Windows: Speaking of windows, make sure they have screens on them if you have pets. Springtime is when a significant increase in the number of animals who either escape or fall out of windows, often to end up injured. In fact, in urban areas, there is an uptick in the number of ‘high-rise syndrome’ cats that fall from significant heights while navigating on windowsills with no screens on the windows.
- Parasites: After a long (or like this year short) winter, many parasite eggs which have been dormant in cold weather are permitted to larvate in the warmer weather. This puts dogs and outdoor cats at increased risk, unless on monthly heartworm preventatives that also protect against worms. And then there is heartworm disease, seen mostly in dogs, carried by mosquitos, but easily prevented with the aforementioned monthly pill. Fleas and ticks both make their long-awaited reappearance again as well, so protection should be started very early Spring, or just continued year-round, what we typically recommend.
- Easter: Not typically considered a particularly dangerous holiday in many quarters, it actually poses some serious threats to both dogs and cats. Firstly, Easter Lilies, like most species of Lilies, are extremely enticing but deadly to cats. Ingesting even small amounts can lead to irreversible kidney failure. Then there is chocolate. Everywhere. Absolutely
everywhere. While dark chocolate poses the greatest risk to dogs and cats (though it is usually the dogs that figure out how to break into the cabinets), eating enough milk chocolate can make them very sick as well. Then there’s Easter grass, which is a not infrequent cause of gastrointestinal foreign bodies and obstructions leading to surgery. Extra
caution is required when there are so many enticing but deadly traps waiting for them.
- Household chemicals: Spring cleaning also means breaking out the chemical cleaners and other supplies, some of which are sweet enough to be attractive to even the most fastidious dogs and cats. Make sure you secure all cleaning solutions, and don’t allow access to recently cleaned areas until the product has dried.
- Car Windows: Every year we treat at least one dog who decided to see what flying is like by leaping from a fast moving car. They quickly find out why birds have hollow bones and wings. And while it may look cute seeing your dog’s ears flapping in the wind, it can actually lead to infections, trapped insects and debris, and is not a good idea at all. In fact, there are several well designed harnesses that are meant to be attached to a seat belt, which makes infinite more sense than allowing them to run free in the car.
- And while more of a problem in the Summer,the greenhouse effect is deadly. Heat rays can travel through glass, but cannot be reflected back out, so the interior temperature of a car in the sunshine can rapidly exceed 100 degrees even on a balmy Spring day. Be smart, if
you can’t leave the pooch home, find an alternative to leaving the poor critter in a car, even with windows cracked. An open sunroof might be a reasonable solution.
- Gardens: There are a host of flowers and other plants that are variably toxic to dogs and cats. Lilies of all sorts have already be mentioned. You can find a relatively complete list to check against your own garden at: http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/poison-control/plants/
- In addition, the mulch made from cocoa bean hulls is reported to be toxic due to the active ingredient in cocoa beans. The amount needed to be ingested in order to reach toxic levels varies according to who you read, but the best solution is just to avoid it if you have outdoor pets, and go with other types of traditional mulches.
- Consult your veterinarian: Every Spring and Summer we deal with health problems that are far worse than they need to be, because someone felt that the symptoms could probably wait. The successful outcome of most illnesses is enhanced by early intervention, just as in humans. But certain things should always be brought to your veterinarian’s attention:
-Blood from anywhere, but especially vomit, diarrhea, or cough
-Cough persisting more than two days, especially if the neck is extended
- Vomiting more than three to four times in a single day, or vomiting multiple days in a row
Your veterinary team saves lives, use them!