As warm weather approaches and the days become longer, we find ourselves becoming more active and spending more time outside with our animals. While this is a welcome change, it’s important to keep in mind that the changing seasons also bring with them some situations that pet parents should be cautious of, as we haven’t had to worry about the possibility of them arising during the colder months. There are a wide variety of seasonal concerns that may cause injury to your pet, and the best way to avoid these instances is to be made aware of the potential harm to your companion before it’s too late.
Listed below are several potential dangers that Spring and Summer may present. We hope that by providing this safety guide, we may aid in avoiding an unexpected hospital visit.
Anaphylaxis is a condition that occurs when an allergic reaction is so severe that it can become life-threatening. Unfortunately, the likelihood of running into potential triggers of an anaphylactic episode coincides with the increase in temperature. Some of the most common warm weather triggers for this reaction include most insects and spiders, but especially bees. While it is nearly impossible to limit all interaction with bugs, it is a good idea to be extra mindful and remain vigilant when outside with your pets. A bite from an insect or a spider can cause a severe reaction, but bee stings can be especially dangerous. Common signs of an allergic reaction to such a situation include swelling, redness at the site, and hives. The most common area for a bee sting or insect bite to occur is around your animal’s muzzle or feet. If you notice these symptoms, call your vet or local animal emergency hospital. Based on the severity of the symptoms, a visit to the hospital may be warranted. In the most severe scenario, you may note difficulty breathing due to facial swelling causing an obstruction of the airway. If this were to occur, it would become an emergency and be important to get your animal to a hospital quickly. If you find yourself going to the hospital in a less severe version of this situation, you can likely expect injections of steroids and antihistamines.
Return to Exercise
The warm weather returning after many cold months usually brings with it a sense of motivation to go outside and enjoy the sunshine. While this is generally a good thing and exercise is healthy for your pet, too much of it can be detrimental. That is why it’s important to ease your pet back into exercise just like you would yourself. Many animals will run themselves to the point of exhaustion, and sometimes that can warrant an emergency vet visit. There is also the possibility of breaking a bone or tearing ligaments if they make a wrong move too quickly. Be sure to be mindful of the amount of activity and to re-introduce exercise in moderation to prevent injury or harm. Also keep in mind that warm weather and exercise can be a deadly combination if the proper precautions are not taken. During the summer months it is best for your pet to avoid being outside unnecessarily or for extended amounts of time during the hottest part of the day. Also be sure to provide plenty of water, shade and breaks when playing outside with your pet.
Pesticides and Fertilizer
Pesticides, fertilizers, and lawn treatments are commonly used this time of year to promote a healthy yard appearance and deter pests. While these things are good for your yard, they can be very dangerous to your animals. Finding a pet friendly fertilizer is highly recommended, but it’s also a good idea to keep your animals off of the lawn 2-3 hours after applying any treatments. If pets are exposed to the yard shortly after it has been treated, it’s recommended to wipe their feet off. This is because some pets have the urge to lick their feet and therefore would be directly ingesting some of the chemicals. The most common symptom that we would see with fertilizer ingestion is GI upset which would likely present as vomiting.
Swimming Pools & the Beach
Swimming pools are beginning to re-open this time of year and can present a huge safety concern for our animals. Never leave your pet unattended around open water, even if a pool cover is in use. Even if they are accustomed to swimming, the danger of drowning or severe harm is ever present. Your pet may slip and lose their bearings, hit their head, or become trapped under the pool cover. Chlorine is also harmful to our pets, especially if it is consumed undiluted. Taking your pet along with you to the beach also requires some diligence, as the sand and saltwater can present issues. Don’t allow your pet to eat sand, as too much could cause an impaction and require surgical correction. Saltwater can also cause sickness if too much is ingested. Be sure to provide plenty of fresh drinking water and shade when your dog is accompanying you oceanside.
Composting is a great way to go green and help the environment, but it is important to restrict your pet’s access to the compost pile. The food waste that is in compost becomes moldy after time, and mold can be very toxic to pets. The most common symptoms of mold ingestion include gastrointestinal upset and tremors. Be sure to keep an eye out for mushrooms in your compost pile as well, as certain species of these can be highly toxic to animals.
Corn Cobs and Grilling
Grilling season is coming back in full swing and with it comes additional temptation for your pet. Your dog is very likely to be interested in anything you’re grilling that smells good, but some items can easily do more harm than good. Be aware of your pet trying to eat discarded skewers, aluminum foil, and even grease. These things can cause an upset stomach or an intestinal blockage. Corn cobs are also very common offenders and will likely cause a blockage if ingested by your pet. Additionally, be sure to keep foods that can be toxic to them out of their reach. These include tomatoes, onions, garlic, raw potatoes, and leeks and chives. In general, too much of any human food (especially greasy ones) can result in Pancreatitis or HGE (hemorrhagic gastroenteritis), either of which may warrant a stay in the hospital.
Flowers, Plants, & Mushrooms
There are many plants and flowers that vary in toxicity when ingested by small animals. A thorough and comprehensive list of toxic plants and flowers can be found at ASPCA.org. During this time of year some plants and flowers may be more common and therefore at a higher risk of exposure to our pets. Be sure to keep an eye out for and keep your pets away from lilies, azaleas, rhododendrons, foxglove, and sago palm. These plants have the potential to damage the heart or liver or in severe cases, cause death. Mushrooms are also often highly prevalent this time of year and can present a major issue when ingested. Use extreme caution when walking your dog in an area that you have seen mushrooms residing in. It could be very easy for your dog to pick up mushrooms without you noticing, and the consequences can be severe. Side effects may range from GI upset, to liver failure, to death.
This list may be overwhelming, but its purpose is not to leave you feeling anxious about your pet and the season change, but instead to make you aware of and prepared for potential dangerous situations in the hopes of being able to outright prevent them from happening. The ASPCA.org website is also a very reliable resource for at home research if you have additional concerns regarding potential toxins. Education and responsible pet ownership are the best preventatives. As always, if you have any concerns, please call your veterinarian or local emergency animal hospital. We hope you and your pets can enjoy the warm weather while remaining safe this spring and summer season!