Spring tips for cats and dogs
As the first signs of spring are starting to appear, we've put together some tips and advice to ensure that you and your pets can make the most of spring.
Spring tips for cats and dogs
Seeing daffodils blooming is often one of the first signs that we are coming out of winter. Although their bright colour can really cheer up a garden or room, care should be taken if you have dogs. Daffodil bulbs, along with tulip, hyacinth, amaryllis and narcissus bulbs, can cause nasty reactions if eaten, and can even be fatal in some cases. Dogs may be affected as their curiosity means they may dig back up and investigate what you spent so much time carefully planting! The rest of the daffodil (stem, leaves and flower) are less toxic, but still not good for our pets, so keep an eye on any cut flowers in the house.
Keep dogs away from cut flowers that have come from bulbs. Make sure unplanted bulbs are stored out of reach, and keep your dog away from areas with planted bulbs, especially if they have a history of digging. Pots with bulbs in should be secure. In some cases, areas with bulbs in should be covered by mesh to prevent investigation. If your pet does dig, and is likely to sample any bulbs you plant, the best suggestion is to plant other, less worrisome plants.
To celebrate spring, Easter is often associated with cut flower bouquets. While beautiful, these often contain lilies, which are highly toxic to cats. In fact they are so toxic that cats can die simply by drinking from the water that lilies have been standing in. This is because the pollen is especially bad for cats, and this can drift into the water from the flowers. Cats who brush against lilies can also get pollen on their fur, and suffer poisoning when they lick themselves clean.
Lily poisoning causes rapid, and often irreversible, kidney damage to cats.
In this case, the best way to avoid lily poisoning is just to not bring lilies at all into a house which has cats. Many cat owners simply bar them from the house, which is an effective way to remove the risk. If you feel you cannot do this, cutting the pollen producing centre of the flower out will reduce the risk, but cats can be poisoned from eating any part of the lily. This means you cannot remove the risk entirely without removing the whole plant itself. For more information on lily poisoning, visit our lily page.
Chocolate is plentiful around Easter, as we all know. This may be great for us, but can be a disaster for our pets. Chocolate is toxic to all our common household pets, but toxicity is most commonly reported in dogs as they generally have the most access to our human foods, and are often not fussy!
Chocolate contains a chemical called theobromine, as well as caffeine, which is what makes it potentially deadly. Our pets cannot process theobromine in the same way that humans can, and eating enough can lead to sickness, diarrhoea and frequent urination. In severe cases these signs can progress to seizures (fits) and even death.
Keeping chocolate away from dogs is really important. Good training regimes can help prevent your dog from helping themselves to chocolate, but in many cases such a sweet treat is too much to resist! Making sure chocolate is stored out of reach or in a pet-proof container will prevent any accidents from occurring.
Hot cross buns are an Easter staple, but did you know the raisins in them can be deadly to dogs? Grapes, and all their dried forms including raisins, sultanas and currants, can cause kidney failure in our canine friends. There is no specific toxic ‘dose’ of grapes – every dog reacts individually, and some dogs have gone into serious kidney failure from a single grape. This means dogs who have eaten grapes are always taken seriously by your vet, and if you think your dog may have eaten grapes, or any raisins or similar (think about cereals, breakfast bars and fruit cakes, as well as hot cross buns!) always call your local vet for advice.
Making sure your dog does not have access to grapes or raisins is important, but the major culprit in these cases is often someone inadvertently giving your dog something that contains dried grapes. Many foods include raisins, currants and sultanas, including sweet breads, cereals, cakes and some savoury dishes. Making sure everyone in the family is aware of the danger of grapes to dogs, and keeping your dog on a strictly dog-specific diet only, will help keep your dog safe from this potentially fatal toxin.
While new life is all around us during spring, sadly this bloom also extends to some of our more unwelcome species. Fleas, ticks and worms all start to grow in number around Easter as the weather warms up. This increases the chances of your pet coming into contact with them, and potentially getting infected. A parasitic infection can be very uncomfortable for your pet, and for more serious cases, such as dogs infected with lungworm, or ticks carrying Lyme disease, an infection can even kill.
Thankfully parasites are easily prevented by speaking to your vet about spot-on, tablet or collar treatments. Your vet’s recommendation will depend on your location, the species of your pet, and the current risk. We recommend dogs and cats are protected year-round from fleas and worms as, despite seasonal peaks, these can infect your pet throughout the year. Ticks are generally only seen in warmer months, and prevention can be seasonal in many cases, although year-round protection is recommended for higher risk pets.
As the weather warms, you want to spend more time in your garden. Unfortunately, so do garden pests such as slugs and snails. As your newly sprouting plants fall foul to these garden invaders, it can be tempting to put out poisons to control these pests. Some of these contain a substance called metaldehyde. This is extremely poisonous to pets, and causes drooling, twitching, fever, seizures (fits) and even death.
Fertilisers can also upset pets, as the very high levels of minerals can cause toxic imbalances. Some fertilisers also contain herbicides, pesticides and fungicides, which are all potential poisons.
Check any slug or snail pellets for metaldehyde. We wouldn’t recommend their use in any garden if they contain this ingredient, as their ingestion can also kill wild animals such as squirrels and wild rabbits. Fertilisers should also be used with care – dig them into the soil thoroughly, and don’t leave any plant food where pets can reach.
With spring comes spring cleaning! No-one’s favourite job, a spring clean often involves turning out cupboards, shaking out dust and pulling out all your cleaning products. While keeping a clean house is important for pet care, cleaning products can be dangerous for pets. Strong acid or alkaline cleaners are a big risk, such as rust removers or toilet bowl cleaners. Most cleaners will only cause an upset stomach in small amounts, but if you think your pet has ingested even a small amount of any cleaning product, we recommend contacting your local Vet4Pets as soon as possible.
Keep cleaning products in a secure or raised cupboard to prevent dogs and cats having access. When using products diluted in water, such as floor cleaners, keep an eye on pets to prevent them sampling the goods, and for strong cleaners keep them out of the room entirely – undiluted cleaners, especially strong cleaners, can damage eyes and skin even without ingestion.
Adders, the UK’s only native venomous snake, come out of hibernation in spring. Although usually placid, if disturbed adder’s can bite, and these injuries are seen most commonly between April and July. There is usually significant swelling and pain at the site of the bite, and approximately 5% of dogs will become much more seriously ill. Contact your vet immediately, and carry bitten dogs to the car and into the vets to limit the spread of the poison.
Adders are rare, so there is little you can do to limit exposure. They are most commonly found in the south and south west of England, western Wales and Scotland where their preferred habitats are sand dunes, rocky hillsides, moorland and woodland edges. Being ‘adder aware’ in these types of area, and knowing where to go in case of an emergency, is the best way to prepare.
Just like us, our pets can have a range of reactions to bee and wasp stings. At their least dangerous, stings are merely a painful inconvenience. At their worst, however, extreme immune reactions can cause serious swellings – if this is around the head and neck, constriction of the airways and restriction of breathing can be a major concern. Dogs and cats are especially at risk, due to often having an interest in catching and playing with wasps and bees they may find. Especially during spring when bees and wasps are sluggish and easier prey, pets may find themselves stung on their feet and around the head and inside the mouth especially.
If you see bees and wasps inside the home, safely remove them from any areas your pets may have access to. Keep an eye on your pets outside, and if you see them investigating any bees or wasps, remove them from the situation. Despite our best attempts it is not possible to fully protect our pets from stinging insects. Make sure to have your vet’s number accessible, and if you see any unusual swellings on your pet, take them to the vets for an assessment.
Dogs, and in rarer instances cats, can develop seasonal allergies to pollens. These often manifest as part of a clinical problem called atopic dermatitis, but can occur in isolation. Pets with a seasonal allergy often itch and scratch, and can damage the skin, leading to sores and infections.
Although it is often impossible to narrow down the exact culprit when your pet has a seasonal allergy, your vet can do tests which may narrow down what is causing your pet’s problems, as well as ruling out other causes of itching. In some cases avoidance, or bathing/wiping down after exposure can help, but in most cases this is impossible or impractical. Medication from your vet can help if required, and making sure you have everything you need ahead of pollen season starting can really help you and your pet.