After a long winter indoors, most of us are eager to get outside for a spring romp with our pets. Our dogs can sense the change in season too, and are more than ready to work off some of their pent-up energy with a run, hike, or game of fetch at the park. But springtime also brings some risks—ones you should be aware of if you spend a lot of time outdoors with your dog.
Here are 6 common springtime risks to your dog’s health, and some easy tips to help you avoid them.
Deer Ticks & Lyme Disease
Though tick season doesn’t reach its peak until summer, warmer spring temps rouse these tiny parasites from their winter sleep. Deer ticks, which winter in leaf piles, become more active as the mercury rises, and pose a risk for the spread of Lyme disease, an illness caused by a bacterium (Borellia burgdorferi). When an infected deer tick bites your dog (or you!), it can transmit the bacteria. Lyme’s is characterized by a red ring around the bite site and symptoms that include fever, joint stiffness, lethargy, and loss of appetite. If you and your dog plan to be outdoors this spring, invest in a preventive flea and tick collar. Also remember to comb and check your pet’s fur for parasites regularly, especially after a walk in the woods or tall grass, where ticks are most common.
Another springtime caution is related to the decorative plants we often cultivate in our gardens. Daffodils, for example, can be very toxic to dogs, especially if the plant’s bulbs are eaten. But even consumption of the leaves or flowers can cause your pet to experience nausea, vomiting, and other gastrointestinal disturbances. Other potentially hazardous garden plants include Amaryllis, Begonias, Clematis, Foxglove, Hostas, Lilies, Tulips, and Wisteria. If your dog is allowed outdoors unsupervised, keep your garden plants fenced to prevent unwanted toxic exposure. A secure barrier will also prevent your dog from digging up your garden!
Some of the chemicals we commonly use to give our gardens a robust healthy appearance can be harmful to dogs. Certain fertilizers, for example, contain insecticides to kill grubs and snails. Accidental ingestion of these agents usually presents as vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy. To avoid direct exposure, keep your pets indoors when applying fertilizer. Mulches can also present a hazard to dogs, as some mulches contain crushed cocoa beans. These beans are toxic to dogs and may smell similar to chocolate (which is also toxic to dogs). If you have dogs, it may be best to avoid mulches made from cocoa beans altogether and to go with a safer alternative such as wood chips. If you suspect a toxic exposure related to gardening chemicals, contact your vet immediately.
Canine physiology is quite different from our own, and many of the medications we take to cope with our seasonal allergies can pose a significant health risk to dogs. Antihistamines, for example, can cause the smooth muscle of a dog’s respiratory tract to contract and can result in rapid or irregular heartbeat, hyperactivity, vomiting, or mental confusion. The level of toxicity depends on the dose consumed and is not necessarily fatal, but as a basic precaution, all human medicines should be kept out of the reach of pets.
As the temperatures climb, many animals that hibernate through the winter begin to emerge from their burrows to search for food. In the U.S., there are 20 species of venomous snakes capable of delivering a bite that could prove fatal to a dog. These include 16 varieties of rattlesnake, as well as other species like the cottonmouth, copperhead, and coral snake. If you are hiking in an area where venomous snakes are common, keep your dog leashed, and don’t allow your animal to approach a snake. While most snakes are more interested in being left alone, they will strike if they feel threatened or cornered. If you spend a significant amount of time in wilderness areas with your pet, consider carrying a snakebite kit with you. And if you suspect that your pet has been bitten by a venomous snake, contact a nearby vet immediately.
As spring warms the earth, frozen ponds, lakes, and waterways begin to thaw. And the pond that was safe to cross on foot in January may present a significant drowning hazard by spring. If you live in a northern climate or in a mountainous area where the spring thaw comes late, keep your dog away from iced-over ponds or waterways.
At FIGO, we understand how important your pet’s health is to you. That’s why we offer a range of insurance plans to help you manage the expenses of veterinary care if your pet becomes ill or injured. Contact FIGO today, and let us help you craft a pet insurance policy that fits your needs—and your budget!
Cecily Kellogg is a pet lover who definitely has crazy cat lady leanings. Her pets are all shelter rescues, including the dog, who is scared of the cats. She spent eight years working as a Veterinary Technician before becoming a writer. Today she writes all over the web, including here at Figo.
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