1. Get Your Daily Dose of Vitamin D...Safely
We all, human and pets, like to take advantage of a beautiful Bay Area Spring day. But one thing we sometimes forget is just how quickly our pets can get overheated. Dogs do not sweat through their skin like we do, but instead expel heat by panting and by sweating through their foot pads and nose. Make sure to keep an eye on your best buddy while out on walks & hikes to ensure he is staying cool. One way to tell if your pet is getting too hot is to check his gums. They should be nice and pink in color and wet to the touch. If your dog's gums become dark red or purple looking or if they are dry and tacky, this can be a sign of heat stroke or exhaustion and you should call your vet for advice on what to do next. Never give a dog with suspected heat stroke/exhaustion ice cold water or a cold bath as this can actually make it worse. Some things you can do to prevent heat stroke are: Walk on the shady side of the street, take breaks, and remember to bring water. Another good trick is to bathe or wet your dog down before heading out and by the time you get back home, he'll be all dried off!
2. Wanna Go For A Ride?
What dog doesn't love to go for a ride in the car, head out the window, taking in all the sniffery? But the truth is, allowing them to ride in the bed of pick-up trucks or stick their heads out of moving-car windows can be dangerous. Flying debris and insects can cause inner ear or eye problems and abrupt stops or turns can cause injury, not mention how distracting it can be for the driver! If your pet is not able to ride along calmly laying down, a car seat or crate might be a good idea to avoid such injuries. There are also harnesses you can get that hook onto your car's seat belts to keep your dog's movement to a minimum.
Please also remember, NEVER LEAVE AN ANIMAL UNATTENDED IN A CAR. Not only is this bad for your pet, but is considered animal endangerment and punishable by fine and/or even jail time. If it absolutely cannot be avoided, make sure you park your car out of the sun, crack the windows and make water available to your pet.
3. The Great Escape!
Those of us who don't have the luxury of air conditioning have to cool ourselves the old fashioned way: open all the doors and windows and get the fans going! But we may be unknowingly putting our pets at risk by doing this. Please make sure all open windows are fitted with screens and open doors have either a screen door or a baby gate to prevent pets from falling out or escaping. It is always good to have identification on your pet, or even better, IN your pet. Microchipping has become fairly standard practice and is actually required for all dogs in the city of Oakland. But even if your pet never sets foot outside your door, it is still a good idea to have it done. I'll never forget sitting at home watching the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and all the displaced pets who had fought so long and hard to survive the storm but still couldn't be reunited with their owners because of a lack of identification. I decided then that ALL my pets needed to be chipped and took my older cat (who was spayed before microchips were commonplace) and had her done. Microchipping is an inexpensive, quick and easy procedure that can usually be done during a routine vet visit without anesthesia.
4. Honey, When Did Our Lab Turn Into A Shar Pei?
Like us, pets can be allergic to foods, dust, plants and pollens, and even insect bites/stings. Reactions can range from minor, like sniffling and sneezing or skin irritations and scabs, to more life-threatening reactions, such as swelling of the face and limbs, hives and even anaphylactic shock. If you suspect your pet is having an allergic reaction, or has been bitten/stung, please call/visit your veterinarian as soon as possible.
5. Fleas & Ticks & Heartworms...Oh My!
With all these April showers we've had, May is bound to bring lots of flowers. And with those flowers come lots of bugs! Make sure your pet is on year-round flea, tick and heartworm preventatives. Although the incidence of heartworm is fairly low in the Bay Area, a year-round regimen is still recommended for all dogs. At the very least, your pet should be tested annually. As for fleas and ticks, there are many highly effective products on the market today that can be given orally or applied topically once a month to prevent an infestation. Talk to your vet about which flea, tick and heartworm products are right for your pet's lifestyle.
6. I Don't Remember Feeding Fluffy Sesame Seeds...
Another pesky parasite to watch for is tapeworms. Although not specifically related to springtime, these vile little things are caused by ingesting a flea who is a carrier (or a rodent or lizard that is), so when flea population increases, so do the number of tapeworm cases. Tapeworms can affect dogs, cats and even pocket pets and reptiles. Once in the intestines, the tapeworm sheds small segments that resemble a grain of rice and are often seen on pet's bedding, in their stools or on/around the anus. Although rarely life threatening, or causing any symptoms at all, it is not recommended to leave them untreated. Usually your vet can prescribe a single dose dewormer to get rid of them. There are also homeopathic remedies available but they take longer to work and usually require repeated dosing. The key to prevention is keeping up on your monthly flea preventative.
So, hopefully I haven't bored you and you will walk away having learned something (and maybe even chuckled once or twice!). The main thing to remember this Spring is to have fun with your pets. It will keep both of you healthy and happy!