I shared some tips with Beth Engelman, founder of Mommy on a Shoestring and mom to adopted pup Tucker. Here are a few items to consider in order to keep pets safe in the spring:
Pet Parasites and Bugs
Spring is the hatching season for numerous bugs that we have forgotten about over the winter. The bad news is that mosquitoes transmit heartworm disease, ticks transmit several life threatening diseases and fleas are an itchy nuisance! The good news is that these diseases are preventable with routine exams, monthly heartworm prevention pills and monthly flea and tick medication. Bees stings and spider bites can cause allergic reactions that generally manifest with hives, facial swelling, vomiting and diarrhea. If your pet exhibits any of these clinical signs they must be evaluated by a veterinarian right away.
The most dangerous plant that I see causing a toxicity in pets is lilies. Lilies are toxic to cats (not dogs) and cause acute kidney failure and can be lethal if not treated quickly and aggressively. All portions of the lily are toxic including the petals, leaves, stems and even the pollen. However, not all lilies are toxic. The best solution is to avoid have lilies in your home if you live with a cat. If you think your cat can’t jump on top of the fridge to get at the lilies, think again. Cats are agile and curious and the potential consequences are not worth it. If you have plants in your home or garden that you are concerned may be toxic, go to this website.
Spring is a great time to clean out your garage, basement, or attic. Be particularly careful if you have anything in these areas that has spilled over the winter. Antifreeze/ethylene glycol is highly toxic to both dogs and cats and causes the kidneys to shut down in a matter of hours if ingested even in small doses. Antifreeze is sweet which makes it attractive to pets. Many companies however, are now adding a bitter agent to help deter toxicities. Also be careful if you put out any rat poison. Depending on the active ingredient, pets that ingest rat poison can develop bleeding disorders or neurologic disorders/seizures if ingested, both of which can be fatal. If your pet may have gotten into rat poison they must be seen by a veterinarian immediately. Also, be careful of nails, screws, or construction materials that may cause lacerations or other physical injuries. Lastly, if you are cleaning your windows make sure that the screens are intact. Cats enjoy sunbathing in windows and can fall out if the screens are not secure.
As a veterinarian I advocate taking your dog to the park for exercise. That is, if you dog is vaccinated, well trained, and you are aware that accidents can happen. Dog bites, lacerations, puncture wounds, muscle strains and torn ligaments are all fairly common. Leptospirosis is an infectious disease spread in the urine of infected mammals that may transmitted in parks but even can be seen in the city. This disease causes kidney and liver failure, is treatable if caught early and is preventable by vaccination. Blastomycosis is a fungal disease that hides in the soil. The fungus is inhaled and most commonly travels into the lungs but can also been seen in skin wounds and can travel throughout the body. The most common clinical sign is coughing or rapid breathing. Blastomycosis is treated with antifungal medication but is very aggressive and can be fatal.
Canine influenza is a rare, highly contagious respiratory disease. The disease is transmitted by coughing and sneezing, and causes pets to be infectious for 2-3 weeks. The most common clinical signs are coughing, sneezing, discharge from the eyes and nose, and potentially a fever. Mild cases can be treated with antibiotics and cough suppressants. More severe cases can progress to pneumonia which often requires hospitalization. Chicago is currently battling an unprecedented outbreak of Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease (CIRD), of which canine influenza is a component. Within the past few months, the city of Chicago has seen over 1000 suspected cases of CIRD. Prevention is key. At this time it is not recommended that dogs be taken to boarding, grooming facilities or dog parks in the city. Be sure your dog is vaccinated against Bordetella bronchiseptica, which is also part of CIRD. The veterinary community has recently discovered that the canine influenza vaccine on the market protects against a different strain than the one we are seeing in Chicago. It has not yet been determined whether there is any cross protection. The Chicago virus has also been known to be transmitted to cats. Reliable information can be found here. If your dog exhibits any of the above clinical signs, they should be checked by a veterinarian right away.