Spring Safety – Keeping your pet safe as the clocks spring forward

Spring has finally sprung and no doubt, you will be itching to do some spring cleaning or wanting the opportunity to spruce up the garden!

You pets too will have noticed the change in the weather and, as a result, be eager to get out and about more, so it’s important to make sure that they are safe from harm as new dangers begin to emerge.

Spring Health Issues

Physical Health Issues – As it becomes warmer outside fleas and ticks begin to emerge outside as well as inside our warm homes. As a result, make sure that you are using preventative treatments, such as spot on liquids, and, should you become aware of an infestation treat it straight away.

 

In addition, your pet may also be at risk of being infected with worms so you should also consider treating your pet if you don’t already, particularly if they are often outside.

 

Just as humans might suffer from seasonal allergies you pet might too. There are various signs and symptoms you should look out for, the most frequently observed by vets is itchy skin, which gets worse after being outside.

When exposed to an allergen like pollen, unlike humans who might sneeze or have runny eyes, it is usually the skin of our pets that becomes affected. Symptoms may cause anything from a mild itch to hair loss and rashes to widespread infections.

Treatment largely depends upon the allergen itself so it is worth speaking to your veterinarian if you notice seasonal changes in your pet’s behaviour. On no account should you medicate your pet with over the counter antihistamines, they can be extremely toxic.

Psychological Health Issues - After a long period of colder weather your pet might feel stressed because their time outside has been reduced or curtailed.

This might lead to infighting in multi-animal households or other expressions of stress and anxiety such as obsessive-compulsive disorders or aggression.

 

There is a suggestion that dogs may develop Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). A survey by the veterinary organization, PDSA (The People's Dispensary for Sick Animals) found that 1 in 3 dog owners noticed that their pet was less playful and appeared down or depressed during the winter months.

Research has also shown that dogs and their owners tend to reflect each other’s emotions and personality traits. The European study found that dogs belonging to neurotic owners were less able to cope with stress, while relaxed owners appeared to have more relaxed and friendly pets.

Whether or not this research is credible, what is clear, however, that as responsible pet owners we should be aware of any changes in our pet’s behaviour, and act accordingly.

Spring Poisons

Food – the Pet Poison Hotline in America claims that the period around Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Easter is one of their busiest times of the year. The calls – which increase by about 200% - are usually due to chocolate or foods sweetened with xylitol.

Therefore, during this period, do remind yourself of what foods are unsafe and keep an eye on your pet just in case they are tempted.

Household and Garden Items – With the new season our pets are usually venturing outside more frequently, as a result, it is important to keep any gardening supplies such as fertilizers and pesticides out of reach. Plus, if you do use them in your garden, it is important that you adhere to the instructions on the item, even if they are supposed to be non-toxic.

Equally, if you choose to spring clean your home, take care that all supplies are returned to a safe place and any spills are cleaned up thoroughly.

Bees, wasps and other small stinging insects emerge at this time of year and, for the inquisitive pet can be a source of entertainment. Unfortunately, a bee sting in a 10 lb animal is the equivalent to a human being stung by a bee the size of your thumb.

Make sure that your home is free from insect nests and try to keep your pet away from foliage that is known to attract them. Also, if you have a particularly sensitive pet perhaps you could walk your dog/ let your pet out during the cooler times of the day when insects are less active, plus minimise any sweet smells in you and your pet’s vicinity.

Drugs, and Health and Beauty Products - it is a fact of life that we humans will be prone to colds and flu as the weather changes. Similarly, you may suffer from hay fever as new plants start to flower, and so might find that you require something to help the symptoms.

Whether the medication you choose is herbal or medical you should be aware that your pet could easily become poisoned by medication that you leave out. Similarly, it is important to be aware that flea and tick medication can cause an adverse reaction in some pets.

Flea and tick medication are very safe for your pet but if you give your cat medication intended for canines, for example, or give a small dog a dose of medication intended for a big dog your pet might experience an adverse reaction.

Flowers, Plants and Trees– Valentine’s Day may bring you flowers, however, even if it doesn’t, Spring is the time for new growth and you might be tempted to bring some of the outside inside. Equally, new plants can be very tempting to your pets.

As a result, if you are given flowers by your Valentine do keep them out of reach, especially lilies, which are very toxic to cats, and take care with the Valentine favourite – roses – because they may have thorns and could scratch or pierce the skin of your pet.

Other flowers or plants that need to be considered are rhododendrons and azalea and spring bulbs such as Daffodils, Tulips and Hyacinth. Keep your pet safe and make sure you pet proof your garden.

Weather

Be aware of High Rise Syndrome - With the warmer weather arriving, you will be tempted to throw windows and doors open.

Unfortunately, because your pet has been restricted from activity due to the weather you will find that this exit becomes very tempting, so, it is advisable that you get your pet microchipped just in case they disappear.

Also, if you live in a high-rise building, do be aware of “High rise syndrome”. This is the term used for the phenomenon of cats (and, occasionally, dogs) falling more than two storeys from a high-rise or skyscraper. It is also used to refer to the injuries that they might sustain if they fell from a great height.

Curious cats venture out into unfamiliar territory and consequently might find themselves distracted by an unexpected noise or come across an unfamiliar surface, which might cause them to slip. As a result, because they are unaware of the limits of the area, they may fall and injure themselves, or worse.

High-rise syndrome is more common in countries that have populations that tend to live vertically rather than spread out as they do in the UK, for example in Hong Kong and America. However, it is worth identifying whether open windows and doors may be hazardous to your curious pet and make the potential exit more secure, perhaps by adding a mesh or opening a higher window instead.

Car safety - Other windows that should be considered are those in moving vehicles. With the warmer weather, you may wish to travel further afield by car. While it is tempting to let our dogs hang their head out of the car’s open windows it can be exceptionally dangerous for them.

Not only can overstimulated dogs leap from rapidly moving cars or even be thrown during a rapid maneuver or collision, but they also risk the chance of grit, insects or other foreign bodies getting into their eyes and ears and subsequently damaging them.

In addition, they are at higher risk of getting ear infections due to the wind rushing over them and, as the wind causes them to flap about, they can become swollen and painful. If this occurs regularly, scar tissue will form and the dog’s ears may become damaged permanently.

When travelling by car make sure your dog is buckled in or confined to a crate and only open the window a crack. This way they get the benefit of the smells and sounds without hanging out of the window and you can concentrate on driving the car safely!

 

Don’t forget too, that you should never leave your pet in a car. Even on mild days, a car can quickly become too hot for your pet. In fact, it is often warmer in the back of a car than the front even on a cool day. See our dedicated advice pages more information on travelling with your pet  and how hot cars can be dangerous.

Exercise - Just as we might want to get out an about our pets will sense that the weather has improved and been eager to get out more. However, if your pet has been exercising much less it is best to increase activity slowly so they can build up their muscle slowly.

Just as humans need to warm up to activity, our pets do too. Equally, our pets may well have put on weight because they have been exercised less so you may wish to consider altering their diet.

In order to preempt these issues, make sure that you play with your pet throughout the colder months to help keep them in good physical condition and try not to give them too many treats – many pets will exhibit treat seeking behaviour because they are bored. Instead, when they ask, try distracting them with a quick game of fetch, or a laser pointer!

 

Once you do find yourself in the open air try to make sure that your pet does not drink from bird baths and standing puddles. These are prime breeding grounds for parasites and infectious diseases such as lungworm, giardia and Leptospirosis.

As a result, make sure that your pets have clean and fresh water available to them at all times, and you clean out any receptacles in your garden that may serve as a water bowl. Also, try to take steps to reduce pooling water around your home and avoid water logged locations on your walks with your dog.

While the above usually refers to cats and dogs the general advice provided here is largely applicable to small pets too.

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