Spring is finally here, the daffodils are out, the blossom trees are blooming, and the weather is (sort of) starting to get warmer. Whilst we’d love to enjoy the change in seasons without a care in the world, Spring can actually bring a whole host of hazards to the world of our pets. Read on for our top tips on keeping your pets safe, happy and healthy this spring.
Keeping your pet safe at easter
With April comes Easter, and with Easter comes Easter eggs! Whilst chocolate is a yummy treat for us humans, it is poisonous to dogs, as well as most other animals, including cats, rodents and rabbits. Chocolate contains something called theobromine, which is life-threatening for pets, and the darker the chocolate, the greater the danger. So, we recommend that you store your Easter chocolate in the same way you’d store medicine … well out of reach of your pet.
Chocolate isn’t the only Easter food that’s toxic to our pets. Hot cross buns, another Easter favourite, often contain raisins, currants, grapes or sultanas, which are all highly toxic to some pets, especially dogs and cats, so keep these out of reach too. If you think your pet may have eaten something they shouldn’t, you must contact your vet immediately for advice.
As well as potentially being toxic, sweet treats and fatty foods are bad for your pet’s general health and weight, with pet obesity becoming a growing problem. So, if you want to show your pet some extra love this Easter, why not try:
- Making some homemade, pet-friendly Easter biscuits – these 3 ingredient dog treats are our favourite: https://www.battersea.org.uk/about-us/news/dog-biscuits
- Getting a pet-friendly ‘Easter egg’ from your local pet store
- A new toy (how about a squeaky carrot or a catnip easter bunny?)
- A nice long walk or extra-long play time
- A ‘spring clean’ at the grooming parlour
March, April and May are the perfect time to start sowing your seeds and planting your bulbs, but make sure you’re aware of which flowers and plants can be dangerous to pets. Lilies are especially toxic to cats – if ingested, every part of the lily flower and plant can cause serious health problems, and in some cases, can be fatal. Other common spring plants that can present a danger to pets are azaleas, calla lilies, lily-of-the-valley, and peace lilies.
Be sure to take care with fertilisers, insecticides and herbicides, as they can be dangerous if your pet ingests them*, so keep pets well away and follow label instructions carefully. From March 31st this year, products containing metaldehyde, such as Slug pellets, have been banned in the UK as metaldehyde can kill birds and mammals and has horrible environmental side effects. Alternatively, you could try using copper ‘slug tape’ around your raised beds or plant pots, which repels slugs rather than killing them.
*If you think that your pet may have eaten, touched or inhaled something that it shouldn’t have, consult your local veterinary practice immediately. Never try to make your pet sick. Trying to do this can cause other complications, which may harm your pet.
Keeping your dog safe in spring
Walking your dog in spring
With the longer days comes more opportunities to walk our dogs. Whilst getting more exercise is great for both us and our fur babies, be careful that you build up their exercise gradually, as they, like us, may be lacking in fitness after the winter and could injure themselves if they do too much too soon!
If you are walking in the countryside, remember to keep your dog on the lead if you are near fields where there is livestock. Chances are they will have young this time of year, especially lambs, and farmers will not hesitate to take action if your dog is seen to be chasing them! Also be aware that birds such as pheasants and swans tend to nest on the ground, so try not to let your dog disturb their nests.
If you are walking in a town or city, avoid tying up your dog outside a shop! Sadly it’s become all too common to hear of dogs being stolen this way, so if you don’t have someone to mind your fur-baby, maybe take them home before you make a trip to the shops.
Please note that it is a legal requirement for all dogs in the UK to be microchipped, so make sure your dog is chipped and your contact details on the microchip database are kept up to date. Also, all dogs should wear a collar and tag bearing the owner’s details whenever they are out in public.
Lungworm in dogs
It’s important to be lungworm aware! Lungworm (also known as Angiostrongylus vasorum) has been a common problem in the South of England and South Wales for some time but the number of cases in the North of England and Scotland have risen too.
So, what is Lungworm?
- Lungworm is a nasty disease that if left untreated can be fatal.
- Dogs can contract lungworm by ingesting worm larvae found in infected slugs, snails or frogs.
- These small, infected slugs are usually found on grass or attached to pets’ fur or on outside toys. So don’t leave toys in the garden overnight, make sure they’re kept in a tightly closed box.
- Lungworm can also be ingested when drinking from puddles contaminated with worm larvae released from dead or dying slugs. So, it’s important to regularly clean out any water bowls that you may have in the garden.
- Diagnosing lungworm can be difficult, as symptoms vary, but can include: coughing, breathing problems, reluctance to exercise, weight loss, abnormal blood clotting, and minor injuries like a cut may bleed for longer.
Being lungworm aware will help to protect your pet, but you should also seek advice from your vet about the most suitable lungworm preventative treatment for your dog.
For further information about lungworm, please read: this article from The Blue Cross.
Lyme disease in dogs
As if there are not enough dangers lurking around in Spring, Lyme disease (also known as Lyme borreliosis), raises its ugly head as ticks start to become more prevalent. Lyme disease can affect dogs, people and horses, and in rare cases cats.
So, what is Lyme disease?
- Lyme disease is an illness spread by ticks
- It’s caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi that is spread when an infected tick attaches to your pet
- Lyme disease in dogs causes a variety of vague symptoms such as limping, stiffness, fever, and lethargy
- Tick control is the best way to help prevent Lyme disease
In the UK the species of tick most likely to infest dogs is Ixodes ricinus, also known as the sheep or deer tick. Ticks are found all over the UK, but Ixodes ricinus favours woodland and rough upland regions and is well known in deer parks. In more urban environments like parks and gardens, it is often Ixodes hexagonus, the hedgehog tick that is found on both dogs and cats. Ticks can spread dangerous diseases, in particular the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.
It’s important to note that not all ticks in the UK carry the Borrelia bacterium but it’s important to check your pet and yourself for ticks after every walk outside, and if you find any attached, safely remove them as soon as possible.
Lyme disease in humans
When it comes to people, we tend to associate Lyme disease with the presence of a ‘bullseye’ rash, but this is not always the case. Lyme disease can be extremely debilitating and cause serious illness, so if you have been bitten by a tick and you develop flu-like symptoms, or feel unwell, you should seek medical advice.
Preventing Lyme disease
Lyme disease can be fatal in pets. There are a variety of products to help to protect your pet from the ticks which transmit this nasty disease, such as spot-on treatments, collars and tablets, which are available from your vet or pet store. Whichever is your chosen product, the most important thing is to make sure your pets are treated regularly as ticks are becoming more of a year-round concern rather than just a Spring and Autumn one.
For more information about Lyme disease and ticks in general, read this this PDSA article.
You may also want to check out our blog from last month, which features a whole section on tick prevention! Linked here: CPC Blog
Keeping cats safe in spring
Cats often become more active (or should we say ‘less lazy’) at this time of year and enjoy spending more time outdoors. Whilst this is lovely for the cats, it’s not so lovely for the little birds who are starting to nest. Fledglings are easy prey for cats, so to give them a fighting chance, invest in a quick-release safety collar with a bell on it to help alert the birds of your cat’s presence – this should prevent your cat from bringing back little ‘presents’ for you from their day out.
Spring is also ‘kitten season’ when lots of rescue centres see an increase in unwanted litters or pregnant queens. Try to avoid adding to the problem by making sure your cat is neutered, whichever gender it is. Another thing is to make sure your cat is microchipped, and your contact details are kept up to date on the microchip database.
Keeping rabbits & guinea pigs safe in spring
If your rabbit or guinea pig lives outdoors, try not to be tempted to bring them out of their cosy, sheltered winter accommodation too soon. Although the days can be mild, the nights are often cold and even frosty! It might be nice to make them a secure day run in the garden, which they can enjoy when the weather is nice, and move them back to their winter shelter to snuggle up in on the colder nights.
If your rabbit or guinea pig has access to grass, make sure you only allow them small amounts to begin with, as eating a lot of grass after eating hay all winter can upset their digestive system and lead to diarrhoea. To ease them in gently, try giving them a balance of hay and grass for the first month or so.
Spring can be such a joyful time, full of hope and new beginnings, and whilst we must remember to keep our pets away from any hazards and danger, we must also remember to enjoy the changing of seasons and make the most of the longer, warmer, sunnier days!
- National Animal Welfare Trust: https://www.nawt.org.uk/advice/keeping-pets-safe-spring
- PDSA: https://www.pdsa.org.uk/pet-help-and-advice/looking-after-your-pet/all-pets/pet-care-in-spring
- MedVet: https://www.medvetforpets.com/5-tips-keep-pet-safe-spring/
- McLean Animal Hospital: https://mcleanah.com/keeping-pets-safe-in-spring/
- NHS: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Lyme-disease/
- ESCCAP: https://www.esccapuk.org.uk/uploads/docs/u6vkuijh_Ticks_Pet_Owner_Info_Sheet.pdf