Is Your Dog Ready for Spring?

You welcome the showers, flowers and warmer weather. But the spring season can pose some challenges if you have a dog. So is your dog ready for spring? Here are seven pet safety hazards to watch out for.

1. Know the symptoms of seasonal allergies

It’s exciting to see life return to the landscape in spring. But that life can bring on some irritating allergy symptoms. Just like with humans, many dogs experience an uptick in allergies as the season changes — with plants and pollen being common triggers. However, canine allergies typically don’t manifest in quite the same way as they do in people (a stuffy nose, watery eyes, sneezing, etc.).

In dogs, environmental allergies frequently present as itchy skin, as well as secondary skin and ear infections. “Environmental allergies, or atopy, are the second-most common cause of itchy skin in dogs after flea allergy dermatitis,” according to VetStreet. You might notice your dog excessively itching or licking their paws, face and ears — a telltale sign of allergies. If so, it’s important to get them to the vet for a diagnosis and treatment.

2. Look out for toxic plants

dog standing in front of tulip fieldCredit: Strekoza2/Getty Images

All that new flora stirring up seasonal allergies might be hazardous for another reason. Many common garden plants are toxic to dogs, including lilies, daffodils, tulips and begonias. The ASPCA’s list of toxic (and nontoxic) plants is a good resource to reference. Lily of the valley, for example, can cause “vomiting, irregular heart beat, low blood pressure, disorientation, coma [and] seizures,” according to the ASPCA. And those pretty spring tulips can result in “vomiting, depression, diarrhea [and] hypersalivation,” with the bulbs containing the most toxin.

Instead, choose from the many plants that are nontoxic to pets. For instance, marigolds, snapdragons, magnolia bushes and petunias all are safe for dogs. And they’ll still make your garden vibrant with color.

3. Identify hazards in your yard

Besides toxic plants, your yard might contain several other hazards for dogs. For starters, spring is typically the time of year when many people renew their focus on lawn care. Avoid the use of toxic lawn chemicals, and be aware of whether your neighbors apply any, as they can easily cross into your yard. Even if you don’t notice your dog eating anything while they’re in the yard, they’ll still get the chemicals on their paws — and end up licking them off later. Plus, you’re better off skipping mulch in your yard. It not only poses a choking hazard, but several varieties contain toxic dyes and chemicals.

Furthermore, as you’re sprucing up your yard, give it a safety inspection with your dog in mind. For instance, make sure the winter months didn’t damage any fencing that could lead to your dog escaping. And pick up debris, sticks and rocks that could pose hazards. Also, be on the lookout for wild animals — many of whom are more active and territorial for their mating season. Spring is full of new sights and smells, so it’s important to be one step ahead of your dog in spotting potential trouble.

4. Prevent pest problems

Mixed-breed dog in tall grassCredit: dkolsek/Getty Images

We’re not done with your yard just yet. As the weather gets warmer, the bugs will start swarming. And that means being especially conscientious about your dog’s parasite prevention. Vets typically recommend using heartworm and flea and tick medication year-round, but you can take further steps to protect your pet.

Fleas like warm, humid climates, and pets will pick them up from the environment or other infested animals, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. They can cause severe skin issues, transmit diseases and even trigger anemia in the host. And once an animal has fleas, they will drop eggs into the environment — worsening the infestation. So it’s critical to identify fleas quickly and use appropriate treatment. Another common pest, ticks typically live “in wooded areas, brush, shrubs and wild undergrowth,” the AVMA says. They also transmit some very serious diseases, so prevention is key. “Trimming bushes and removing brush may reduce your pet’s exposure and risk of infestation,” according to the AVMA.

5. Ease into exercise

If you and your dog haven’t been as active during the snowy, cold winter months, you’re certainly not alone. But be cautious about ramping up your dog’s exercise routine too quickly now that the sun’s out again. “After several months inside and inactive, your dog may have gained weight, lost muscle tone and be a little stiff in the joints,” PetMD says. “… Reintroduce him slowly to his favorite outdoor activities by starting with short runs and hikes or gentle games of fetch and Frisbee until he’s used to an increased level of activity.”

Before you jump into anything new, discuss any exercise limitations your dog might face with your vet. For example, brachycephalic dogs can be at risk of breathing difficulties and overheating, so they must be closely monitored during physical activity. Still, every dog benefits from a healthy workout routine. And you have many options to get your dog (and yourself) moving — including walking, jogging, swimming, playing with toys and even getting involved in dog training or sports.

6. Monitor for dangers on walks

As you settle into your warm weather exercise routine, monitor for new dangers that might pop up on dog walks. Brush up on your leash etiquette, especially because you’re more likely to see other people (and their dogs) out and about in the spring. And try to prevent your dog from stepping on lawns around your neighborhood, as they might be treated with toxic chemicals. Likewise, don’t let your dog drink out of puddles from those spring showers, which might contain chemicals or dangerous pathogens.

Plus, be conscientious about the sun and heat as the weather gets warmer. Consider carrying water for you and your dog if you’re taking a longer walk. And always make sure your dog has adequate shade — taking special precautions for those with lighter skin and coats. “Animals with white coats and pale skin around their noses and eyes are traditionally more susceptible to skin cancers,” PetMD says.

7. Check your pet gear

dog holding a leash in their mouthCredit: damedeeso/Getty Images

For many people, spring marks a time when we move our clocks forward and check our smoke detectors. But you also can use it as a reminder to inspect your pet gear. You’ll probably be out and about more often with your dog in the nice weather, so it’s important to make sure they’ll be safe.

Check leashes, collars, harnesses, etc. for any wear and tear, and verify that they still fit appropriately. “A small tear or a loose fit can mean the difference between life and death,” PetMD says. Make sure your dog’s ID tags are current and still legible, and have your vet scan their microchip to confirm that it still works. Plus, examine your dog’s toys, and repair or replace anything that’s damaged. Just a few quick checks can take your dog into the spring season safe and sound.

Main image credit: Majchy/Getty Images


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