While it has been slow in coming this year, springtime is upon us and the change in seasons can bring a new set of concerns for pet owners as the weather warms.
For starters, most of us have been cooped up all winter and our pets' overall fitness level may have deteriorated as well. They share our enthusiasm for the longer days and will make a break for a squirrel or spend a long day at the park right off the bat without having the strength to support the activity. Just like people, they need to gradually get back into shape before strenuous activity or bad things can happen. As a result, the incidence of torn knee ligaments and orthopedic injuries go up this time of year. Start with longer and longer walks to allow your dog to get back into shape and hopefully lose a few pounds of winter weight before zooming around the backyard keeping the world safe from squirrels or participating in marathon ball-playing sessions.
Warmer days also signal the return of many of the biting and stinging creatures that pester our pets. Higher humidity levels trigger the emergence of dormant fleas in the environment. Hopefully your pets have been on some form of flea preventive, but if not, now is the time to start. When it comes to flea infestations, prevention is by far easier than eliminating them once they become established. If your pet is at risk or travels to an area that is known for tick infestation, ask your veterinarian what would be the best preventive for your dog. Dogs are susceptible to Lyme disease as well and ticks can transmit a number of other diseases, so comb your dog thoroughly after a hike in the woods or a camping trip to remove the ticks before they have a chance to attach.
Spring also signals the return of allergies for many pets. Excessive licking at the feet, face rubbing, and scratching are indications of itchy skin. Cats will groom excessively or develop red raised sores from allergic skin disease. If your pet has a history of seasonal allergies you may start to see the symptoms return in the next few weeks. If the itching is mild a good source of omega-3 fatty acids like fish oil-based supplement can help decrease some of the inflammation in the skin. Antihistamines help some pets as well, but be sure to ask your veterinarian what is best for your pet before giving anything for itching. Dosages can vary significantly and the decongestants that are added to many over-the-counter antihistamines for people can make pets very sick.
Regular bathing can also provide relief for many itching dogs this time of year. It removes many of the allergens they come in contact with from their skin. If bathing is a chore for your dog, simply wiping his feet when he comes in from outside can help dramatically. The vast majority of the time the only contact your dog has with the allergic triggers outside is the bottom of his feet. This is also one of the main reasons dogs with allergies lick their feet excessively. An old damp towel will remove many of the culprits and have the added benefit of keeping your floors cleaner during our wet spring months. Enjoy the warmer weather.
Questions for Dr. Gary Thompson can be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or mailed to The Blade, Attn. Ask the Vet, 541 North Superior St., Toledo, OH 43660. Dr. Thompson regrets that he cannot answer individual letters.