By Sheila Fitzpatrick, DVM
Springtime is around the corner, the time of year that we all look anxiously for, as we dream about the longer sunshine-filled days, the green grass, blooming flowers, and warmer temperatures. But for our pets, the spring can also mean increased visits to the veterinarian, both for annual preventative visits to prepare your pet for springtime diseases, as well as emergency visits due to the increasing number of hazards the spring has to offer our pets!
Firstly, our pets begin to get out of the house, just as we do, as the weather warms. We are more likely to take our dog to the dog park, out for a long walk or on a hike, increasing the chance of our dogs coming into contact with other dogs. This can result in an increased number of dog fights, bites and contagious diseases, both respiratory and intestinal.
So be cautious with your social, curious dog as you visit your favorite spots. Keep him or her on a leash, and have him/her get their vaccinations for diseases endemic to the area.
For cats, this also is a time for increased exposure to other cats, very commonly resulting in bites. Bites in cats are far more dangerous than in dogs, as cats have considerably more bacteria in their mouths. These bites can result in infections called abscesses that must treated by your veterinarian, and they can also carry deadly diseases like feline leukemia! So please, get your cats vaccinated before an emergency so they can be best prepared to fight off diseases they could be exposed to!
Secondly, as the thaw occurs, we see far more exposure of pets to trash left behind during the winter, as well as to animal carcasses. Exposure to these hazards can cause internal parasites and life threatening intestinal blockages and infections. So please, do a spring clean up before allowing your pet to roam on your property, and when off on a hike, keep your pets close to you so you can watch what they put in their mouths!
Thirdly, springtime means more plant growth, which means pets can be exposed to toxic plants, leading to anything from mild reactions to severe illnesses. Keep the ASPCA’s list of toxic plants close so you are aware of what plants to stay away from.
Fourthly, springtime also means your pets are exposed to more insects, which can result in bites causing severe allergic reactions. If you notice your pet suddenly has a swollen face or ear, call your veterinarian immediately. It’s also a good idea to have Benadryl or other antihistamine around at all times. Also, it’s important to keep your pet protected from ticks, can carry many deadly diseases such as Lyme disease. Ask your veterinarian for tick prevention medications.
Finally, ask your vet for heartworm prevention, which is now recommended year round in many states. These deadly parasites have many life cycles and can be missed for many months.
Be proactive in preventing all of these springtime hazards from keeping you and your pet from having a terrific spring!
Sheila Fitzpatrick, DVM, is a graduate of Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine and owns Mountain Mobile Veterinary Service in Eagle and Vail, CO. She’s a 1983 graduate of Ellicottville Central School and a frequent visitor to Ellicottville where her parents still live and her father Dana and brothers Greg and Dan own and run Fitzpatrick and Weller. She provides this column as a public service to pet owners in our area.