Spring is one of my favorite times of the year: the flowers are blooming, leaves are budding on the trees and hummingbirds are buzzing about outside my office window. But springtime also brings certain challenges for pet parents. Temperatures are on the rise, rattlesnakes, fleas and ticks are out in full force and some of those beautiful flowers that are starting to bloom could be toxic to our furry friends.
As we turn our attention to outdoor activities and spring cleaning, be sure to do a quick inventory of potential hazards and keep the following tips in mind to keep your pets safe, happy and healthy.
Rattlesnakes: San Diego County is home to countless trailheads that are perfect for enjoying hikes with our canine friends. It’s important to remember that we are sharing those trails with various types of wildlife – including rattlesnakes. So how do we safely coexist? First and foremost, never let your dog off leash. Not only is it illegal (there is a 6-foot leash law in San Diego County), but it’s dangerous because your dog could stumble upon a snake. Avoid tall grass or bushes, keep your eyes and ears open at all times and watch where you step. If you do come upon a snake, take two giant steps backwards and move on. At home, be sure to keep your yard clean and free of tall grass, leaves or wood piles – all perfect hiding places for snakes.
It’s a good habit to bring your veterinarian’s contact information, as well as contact information for the nearest emergency vet hospital, with you every time you head out with your dog. If your dog is bitten, keep him calm and immediately call the hospital to let them know you are on the way. Remove your dog’s collar if it was bitten on the neck or face and never apply a tourniquet or attempt to suck out the venom.
Pests: Fleas and ticks may not pack as much punch as a rattlesnake, but they can still be bothersome to our pets and can cause health issues. Spring is the unofficial start of flea and tick season, so now is the time to begin preventative treatments. There are a variety of options available, including shampoos, sprays, collars and topical treatments such as Frontline and Advantage. Consult with your vet to see which treatments are appropriate for your pet.
Poisonous plants: It’s important to keep your furry friends in mind before heading out to plant your spring garden. Some plants, including Easter lilies, rhododendron and azaleas, are toxic to pets and can be fatal if consumed. But it doesn’t end there: fertilizers, insecticides and herbicides also can be fatal if ingested, so store them out of your pet’s reach and read instructions before use.
Foxtails and stickers: Foxtails are pesky, bristly plants that grow in abundance here in San Diego. They might seem harmless, but they are adept at burrowing into ears, eyes, noses and mouths and can cause infections and tissue damage if not removed. Avoid letting your dog walk where there are foxtails and stickers, and do a thorough investigation of your pup’s fur, nose, mouth and ears after your walk.
Car safety: If you are taking your dog out for a hike or a trip to the beach, keep in mind that allowing your pooch to stick his head out the window can be dangerous (I have to admit I’m guilty of this one!). Bugs and debris can cause ear or eye injuries, and a quick stop can cause injury. Secure your pet in a crate or get him a seatbelt harness to keep him safe on your excursions. Never leave your dog alone in a parked vehicle. Even with the windows open, the car can quickly become a furnace, which can lead to heat stroke or death. If you know you have errands to run that can’t include your dog, just leave him home.
Always wear ID: If there is one tip that I hope you will take to heart, it’s this one. Not a day goes by at the Escondido Humane Society that we don’t receive a pet that has been lost, and many of them aren’t microchipped or wearing proper identification. We and other local shelters offer microchipping to the public, and ID tags can be purchased at your local pet store. If your pet is lost, a microchip and ID tag will help reunite you sooner and will prevent a lot of heartache for both you and your pet.
I hope these tips will help you and your pet safely enjoy the season. Happy spring!
Katie Woolsey is the public relations coordinator at the Escondido Humane Society, the first and only shelter in San Diego County to provide DOGTV for its animalsWhile she wishes she could take all of the animals at the shelter home, she knows that the right home for every pet is out there … she just needs to help them find each other. Katie has one pet of her own: a 7-year-old ball-chasing black Labrador named Blue.