As the days grow warmer under the springtime sun’s rays, families are eager to head outdoors. This desire for natural light, fresh air and outdoor revelry extends to the furry members of the family. Be mindful of potential outdoor hazards and protect your dogs and cats with these spring safety tips.
Dogs in Spring
Your canine companion loves the outdoors, and dogs in spring are delighted participants in every family activity, from digging in the garden to al fresco dining. Follow these spring safety tips to protect your dog from the potential hazards that accompany these activities.
Deck Railings As you spend more relaxation time outdoors on the deck, be mindful of your toy breed as it scampers and plays on the deck. If the spaces between the deck’s railing posts are wide enough for your teacup Yorkshire terrier to fit through, install lattice panels along the posts to prevent accidental falls that can result in tragic injury. If your deck has stairs that are open at the back of each step, consider boarding up the backs. Open stairs can result in small breeds falling through and in larger breeds sustaining leg injuries if they slip.
The flowers, trees and shrubs that beautify your property can be enticing and deadly snacks to your dog. Some plants are harmless, but many contain toxins that are hazardous to your dog’s health when consumed. Before you plant, determine which flora is toxic, and choose plants that are safe for curious pets with the munchies. Your dog may be an enthusiastic helper in digging holes as your plant flower bulbs, but remember that bulbs are poisonous if your dog consumes them. Research all of the trees that adorn your property so that you know which ones drop toxic flowers, seeds, fruits or other material. Many wild mushrooms that grow in backyards are toxic. Before you allow your dog outside each day, patrol the yard and remove all mushrooms and poisonous tree droppings. Find out more about toxic plants for dogs and cats.
Stagnant Puddles Birdbaths and standing puddles from the previous night’s spring shower are prime breeding environments for illnesses that can affect your thirsty dog if the water is lapped up. One of these illnesses is giardiasis, which is caused by a protozoan intestinal parasite called giardia. Leptospirosis is a life-threatening disease that dogs can contract by ingesting urine from infected wildlife. This is most easily achieved by drinking from ground puddles that contain the urine. Clean birdbaths frequently, and change the water daily. Take steps to prevent pooling of rainwater on your property, and remember to change the water in your dog’s outdoor drinking bowl twice each day.
Fleas, Ticks and Mosquitoes
Fleas can make your pets miserable and cause tapeworm infestations, and ticks transmit several diseases, including Lyme disease. Mosquitoes transmit heartworm disease. If you reside in a climate of snowy winters and discontinue flea, tick and heartworm preventatives for the colder months, now is the time to resume your dog’s protection against these parasitic pests. It is essential to bring your dog to the veterinarian so that a simple blood test can confirm that your dog is negative for heartworm disease before you administer a heartworm preventative product. Many of the heartworm preventative products also protect your dog from some of the common intestinal parasites, such as roundworms and hookworms. You can also obtain safe and effective flea control from your veterinary clinic.
Gardening and Pool Chemicals As you revitalize your lawn, nourish your plants and prepare the pool for summer splashing, be sure to confine your pet indoors when applying chemical products. Fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides and pool chemicals are all toxic substances if your dog ingests them. Keep all of these products, along with toxic antifreeze, securely stowed away from your pets’ access. Allow lawn and plant care products to dry thoroughly after each application before you allow your pets to venture outdoors. For an added measure of safety after your yard and swimming pool maintenance tasks have been completed, take off your shoes before you walk through the house, and stash them out of your pets’ reach.
Open Gates and Doors With an increase of foot traffic in and out of houses and yards during the warmer months, especially in homes with children whose friends come by to play, make sure that everyone is diligent about closing gates and doors behind them. As families spend more time outdoors, the number of dogs that escape and go missing or become struck by vehicles surges during the warmer months. This is also a good time to ensure that your dog’s identification tag and microchip information are current.
Cats in Spring
You may already practice pet safety for your cats in spring, summer, winter and fall by keeping them indoors. If your cat does routinely venture outside, many of the above-mentioned pet safety guidelines for dogs also apply to your feline friend. Below are some spring pet safety tips that should be considered for indoor cats.
After months of winter hibernation, many homes undergo thorough spring cleaning rituals that involve the use of cleaning chemicals on every surface. Inhaling the fumes from these chemicals can be irritating to your cat’s airway. Curious kittens may also want to paw and sample the contents of a cleaning bucket. Consuming these cleaning solutions has toxic consequences for your cat and for your dog. Relegate your pets to a room that is not currently being cleaned, and open a window to allow the ventilation that is needed to remove the fumes. When drying laundered curtains and other household linens, be sure to check the dryer for napping cats before you shut the door of the unit and turn the appliance on.
Open Windows and Doors As you open windows to allow fresh air inside to ventilate and cool your home, make sure that all screens are securely in place and free of tears. Replace any damaged screens. Cats have been known to fall through faulty screens or unscreened windows of high-rise apartments with devastating consequences. An unscreened window or an opened door of the house is an escape route for your cat, which can result in a fatal encounter with a moving vehicle.
Fleas, Ticks and Mosquitoes
You may not realize it, but your indoor cat is also at risk for fleas, ticks, mosquitoes and other parasites. Fleas and ticks can come indoors on your shoes and clothing, and a single mosquito can fly in through a door that is opened and infect your cat with heartworm disease. Your veterinarian will be able to prescribe the safest preventative products to protect your cat from parasitic perils. Do not ever apply a flea and tick preventative that is formulated for use in dogs to your cat. This will have deadly consequences since these products contain permethrins, which are highly toxic to cats.
Think twice about bringing the beauty of your garden indoors. Bouquets of lilies and other spring blooms are toxic to your nibbling cat. Remember that cats can leap and soar to amazingly high surfaces, which means that the notion of keeping a vase of flowers out of your cat’s reach is not as easy to accomplish as it sounds.
Keep your pets safe by following these tips, and keep the contact numbers for your veterinarian, a local emergency veterinary facility and the animal poison control center programmed in your cellular phone and posted in a prominent spot in your home where all family members can refer to the information in an emergency situation.