Just like many of us, dogs love the spring. It signifies the return of evening walks, weekend outings and time in the garden with the family.
But, spring brings with it a host of issues that all dog owners should be aware of. At The Way of the Dog, our articles are focused on providing dog owners with information on how best to maintain the health and wellbeing of their canine friend. In this article we will cover a few of the considerations you should make for your dog this spring.
Spring is generally a good time for a dog in the home; the windows get opened, the fresh air blows through and the house gets a spring clean. The only thing to consider here is your use and storage of cleaning products. Try to use products that you know have no effect on your dog, store them safely and securely and monitor your dog for allergic reactions to any new products used in your home (see info on allergies below).
The same rules apply if you decide to decorate any part of your home. Always consider your dog; keep him/her safe from harm, keep them away from equipment and chemicals, and keep the house ventilated.
The greatest dangers we expose our pets to in the home environment in the spring are often associated with the garden. Tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, lilies and crocus are common spring plants but they are all poisonous or irritant to dogs. Many lawn care products and fertilisers are potentially fatal to our pets.
The database of plants, foods and household items and their toxicity at www.petpoisonhelpline.com can be used to assess the risks of these items in your home. It also informs you what to do in the event of ingestion.
Out and About
Spring signifies new life, new life that can be threatened by your dog’s proximity.
By law, you must control your dog so that it does not disturb or scare farm animals or wildlife. On most areas of open country and common land, known as ‘access land,’ you must keep your dog on a short lead between 1 March and 31 July and all year round near farm animals.
Take particular care that your dog doesn’t scare sheep and lambs or wander where it might disturb birds that nest on the ground and other wildlife – eggs and young will soon die without protection from their parents.
You do not have to put your dog on a lead on public paths as long as it is under close control. But as a general rule, keep your dog on a lead if you cannot rely on its obedience. If this is the case with your dog, please get in touch with us, our Dog Obedience Service can help you strengthen your dog control and recall.
Bugs, Beasties and Creepy Crawlies
Spring also sees the reemergence of all those bugs, beasties and creepy crawlies that disappear in the winter months.
- Fleas – Fleas become more prevalent as the spring weather begins to warm. They live off the blood of animals and are a nuisance to their hosts, causing an itching sensation which in turn may result in the host attempting to remove the pest by biting, pecking, scratching, etc. Flea bites generally cause the formation of a slightly raised, swollen itching spot with a single puncture point at the centre.
- Midges – Midges pose no real health risk to your dog other than irritation. The bites of a female midge have the same effect on your dog as it does to you. Midge bites generally cause the formation of a slightly raised, swollen itching spot with a single puncture point at the centre. Some dogs may have increased sensitivity to their bite and your vet can usually prescribe a anti-allergenic medicine.
- Mosquitos – As with midges, the UK mosquito poses only the risk of irritation to your dog. Mosquito bites generally cause the formation of a raised, swollen itching spot with a single puncture point at the centre. However, the European mosquito can carry heart worm. If travelling abroad you should speak to your vet about vaccination.
- Ticks – Ticks are parasites that feed on the blood of host animals for several days. They are particularly unpleasant beasties as they can carry and transit Lyme Disease to humans and pets. See our detailed article about your dog and ticks.
- Lungworm – Lungworm are a type of parasitic worm that can affect dogs living in the heart and blood vessels that supply the lungs. Your dog cannot become directly infected by lungworm, but can become a host by eating slugs and snails.
Infestation or pestering by any of these parasites can be prevented through the regular use of preventative medication. Your vet will be able to advise you on the type and dosage required to protect your dog. If infestation has already taken place, particularly with fleas, ticks or lungworms a trip to the vet is necessary.
Just like humans, dogs can suffer from seasonal allergies; but, unlike humans whose allergy symptoms usually involve the respiratory tract, allergies in dogs more often take the form of skin irritation or inflammation.
If your pet has allergies, it’s skin will become very itchy leading to scratching excessively, and/or biting or chewing at certain areas of the body. They may rub themselves against vertical surfaces like furniture, or may rub their face against the carpet. As the itch-scratch cycle continues, the skin will become inflamed and tender to the touch. Other signs of allergic dermatitis include areas of hair loss, open sores on the skin, and scabbing.
The best cure is to remove the allergen, soothe the symptoms and monitor your pet’s progress, but in many cases the allergen will be unknown. In this case you should consult your vet, who may recommend blood testing to find the cause and/or medication to soothe the symptoms
Some spring days can be sunny and warm, sometimes even hot. Therefore, it seems timely to remind you of the effects of this on your dog.
You dog struggles to regulate it’s own body temperature; it doesn’t sweat, it can’t take it’s coat off, it goes where you take it. It is your responsibility to ensure that it is safe from the dangers of overheating and to minimise it’s risks.
- Water – Your dog loses the majority of its heat through panting. It transfers body heat to moisture in the respiratory system which it breathes out thus expelling the heat. Using this method, your dog will become quickly dehydrated. Always make sure that your dog has plenty of fresh, clean water available.
- Exercise – Be careful not to over exercise your dog on a warm day as it will become at risk of overheating. If you keep throwing that ball, your dog will keep fetching it. Constantly monitor its breathing and look for signs of panting, then stop. Make sure that you have fresh, clean water available to offer your dog if you intend exercising them in warm weather.
- Hot Cars – We all know that dogs die in hot cars, but this applies to conservatories, tents and caravans too. The temperature inside your car can quickly become double the outside temperature once the sun comes out. Once that temperature rises to a point where your dog begins to overheat, it could be dead in a matter minutes. It is a painful, horrendous death. I will write a more detailed article on the speed at which this can happen in the lead up to summer.
- Grooming – All dogs will benefit from regular grooming to rid their coats of excessive insulation in the spring and summer, this also provides a great opportunity to check your dog for external parasites. Long haired dogs should have their coats cut frequently to help reduce the risks of overheating.
Enjoy the Spring
At The Way of the Dog, we advocate the daily exercising of your dog and spring often provides the perfect conditions for doing so. We hope that you will use the information presented in this article to make it a happier and healthy experience for your dog.
Contribution by Matthew@Heppiness