Tips on keeping your pet cat or dog safe and healthy this Spring
Great news, Spring’s in full bloom! However, it’s not just the plants popping their heads up. Spring brings a few risks with it and being aware of the specific seasonal threats could help us pet-owners know the appropriate care for our pets – even the smallest bit of knowledge goes a long way. With a little help from our pet health experts here’s a brief round-up to keep you vigilant and well-informed this Spring. Stay safe and enjoy the sunshine!
Poisoning risks and environmental allergens
While this is the time you’ll both want to be out and about soaking up the sun, be aware that lots of those spring-flowering plants can be highly toxic to cats and dogs (and there’s few effective treatments). Some plants can cause vomiting, seizures and abnormal lethargy, all of which will be discomforting and painful to a pet. Other species can be far more dangerous: azaleas can cause heart failure, daffodils may cause severe gastrointestinal illness, low blood pressure and seizures, and eating lilies can lead to severe kidney failure and is highly toxic for cats. Watch their behaviour (you know your pets better than you might think) and take them to your vet immediately if you suspect anything.
Baits and insecticides
Rodent, slug and snail baits can contain metaldehyde which can poison pets and lead to unpleasant symptoms. As is the case with insecticides, poisoning may lead to fever, vomiting, diarrhoea, anorexia, depression, seizures, tremors, drooling, trouble walking and breathing, an increased heart rate and constricted pupils. Most over the counter fertilisers and insecticides ( if accidentally swallowed or transferred via the skin) may only lead to stomach problems and may not be a major cause for concern. However, some insecticides and pesticides contain organophosphorous compounds which work like mild nerve agents and can lead to far worse side effects if your pet comes into contact with them. If you suspect poisoning, take your pet to the vet immediately – and if you’ve been using an insecticide, take a sample along with you. The sooner you treat your pet the better the prognosis.
Another harmful substance for cats is permethrin (one of the most common causes of pet poisoning worldwide), which is found in spot-on flea products. Intoxication follows the inappropriate application of the formulations or close contact with treated dogs, and can result in life threatening toxicosis in cats if not given immediate attention. Also be careful when keeping up with the Spring-cleaning – keep household cleaning products far out of their reach!
We’re not the only ones who suffer from Spring allergies! Your pets can be allergic to grasses, pollens, moulds and trees, and can develop a similar set of symptoms. Watch out for skin irritation and inflammation (and associated behaviour like scratching, biting and rubbing), and to a lesser extent your pet might display respiratory symptoms like sneezing, runny noses, or asthmatic signs, allergies can also cause gastro-intestinal upsets. If not treated adequately the first time round, seasonal allergies could become year-round allergies: If you are concerned take your animal to your vets in order for them to be examined, diagnosed and treated appropriately.
Fleas, ticks and things that sting
As the flowers come out, so too do bees and wasps. The odd sting isn’t much of a problem (apart from being annoying), but a nosy dog can sometimes end up getting more than they expected. If they develop a severe reaction (weakness, difficulty breathing and swelling) it can be an indication of multiple stings or an allergic reaction, and they should be taken to a vet immediately. For single stings, leaving it alone or scraping the stinger away is usually the best idea (don’t be tempted to pluck it out with tweezers), administer an icy cold towel to any swelling and wash the site with a weak water and baking soda mix.
Fleas and ticks survive winters in microclimates, and by the time Spring rolls around they’re ready to explode in numbers – flea populations can remain active all year long in a warm house. Pets can develop an allergic reaction resulting in rashes, dermatitis and fur loss from scratching or biting, and both fleas and ticks may present more dangerous diseases like bartonellosis (and Cat-scratch disease), tapeworm and even Lyme’s disease. The only way to stay safe is to be vigilant – continue their regular flea treatments. Vacuuming and washing your pets’ space, keeping lawns mowed and bushes pruned, removing any leaf litter from your garden and planting things that naturally ward off ticks and pests (lavender, lemongrass and border plants) will discourage wild animals from straying into your pet’s home and dropping off unwanted passengers [NB: when using medicated products for your pets, always use as instructed as inappropriate usage can be extremely dangerous].