EXCLUSIVE FEATURESMake sure your pet care is ready for spring

Make sure your pet care is ready for spring

Spring is just around the corner and for many of us, the longer days and warmer temperatures mean increased time spent outdoors and turning our thoughts to spring cleaning. As the seasons change, follow these top tips to make sure your pet care is ready for spring.

Spring brings an abundance of spring bulbs and flowers, which can be tempting for dogs to dig up and eat. The bulbs of many plants, including hyacinths, bluebells, daffodils and tulips, contain a toxin that makes them poisonous to dogs. When eaten, these can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain and lethargy. Most of the time, these symptoms are mild to moderate but can occasionally require active intervention, although serious cases of poisoning are thankfully rare. All parts of lily plants are highly toxic to cats
and can cause kidney failure and prove fatal if not treated quickly. Keep an eye on your dog if you have bulbs or flowering plants in your garden and when you’re walking in woodlands. If you suspect your pet has eaten a bulb or flowers, contact your vet immediately (don’t wait for signs of poisoning to appear).

Dog sat with flowersTICKS AND FLEAS
As the weather starts to warm up, ticks and fleas become active and can transmit diseases to pets and their owners. Check pets for ticks frequently and promptly remove any you find, ideally using a tick remover tool. Speak to your vet about suitable and effective treatments that can be tailored for your pet and can minimise the impact on the natural environment.

Whilst many of us enjoy a sweet treat at Easter, ideally your pet shouldn’t share these indulgences. Chocolate can be poisonous to dogs and cats and can cause restlessness, tremors, vomiting, abdominal pain, increased thirst and increased heart rate. The darker the chocolate the more toxic it is to pets. Some chocolate might also contain other foods toxic to pets, such as raisins or coffee. If you suspect your dog or cat has eaten chocolate, contact your vet immediately.

Easter Eggs

Spring means the arrival of baby farm animals, so if you’re walking your dog in fields with livestock, be aware that you might encounter lambs and calves. Keep an eye out for signs indicating where livestock is present, keep your dog on a short lead around sheep, cows and any other livestock and make sure to pick up your dog’s faeces (it can spread serious diseases to sheep and cows).

Dog in a fieldSPRING BIRDS
In late spring, baby birds (fledglings) leave their nest for the first time and are particularly vulnerable to being caught by cats. Cat owners can do their bit for bird conservation by fitting a bell to your cat’s collar, keeping your cat inside around sunrise and sunset (when birds are most active and feeding) and placing any bird feeders above the ground and away from shrubs or garden borders where cats can hide.

Grass seeds can easily brush off their stems and get stuck to your dog’s fur, where they can pierce the skin or get stuck in your dog’s paws, eyes or ears, which can be painful and become infected. Check your dog’s fur, paws and ears when you return from a walk and remove any grass seeds you spot. If you suspect your dog has a grass seed injury, contact your vet.

Dogs and cats can have allergies to pollen from grasses, trees and weeds, similar to hay fever in humans. The main symptom of pollen allergy in dogs and cats is itchy skin, which often causes them to scratch or lick the affected area excessively, leading to rashes, scabs, dryness and redness. This can occur anywhere on the body but is most common on the paws, face, ears, eyes, abdomen, legs and armpits. If your pet is uncomfortable and you think they may have a pollen allergy, contact your vet for treatment options.

GUINEA PIGS OUTDOORS If you have kept your rabbits or guinea pigs indoors during the winter, they can be moved outdoors when the weather warms up and there’s little difference between the temperature indoors and outdoors. It’s advised that guinea pigs can be kept outside once the temperature is above 15°C, whereas rabbits are able to cope with lower temperatures of 10°C. Give your pets time to gradually acclimatise to being outdoors. Provide extra hay and increase insulation by covering the hutch roof with a blanket or cover for the first couple of weeks.


Most hibernating tortoises start to wake up in March. When it is time for your tortoise to wake up, move it to a warm (room temperature) room for a few hours, then place it in a warm bath, with the water level reaching under its chin, to allow it to drink and rehydrate. After their bath, your tortoise should be kept warm using a heat lamp, and kept indoors until the weather is mild enough for them to be moved outside. A health check by a vet after hibernation is recommended

Dog with toysSpring is the perfect time to refresh your pet-related cleaning routine. Check cat litter trays and remove any clumped litter every day. Remove and replace all of the litter once a week and use hot water and detergent to clean the tray itself.

Don’t forget your pet’s toys, food and water bowls, and bedding! Toys and bowls can harbour bacteria from saliva and food, which can be passed onto you when you pick them up. Aim to clean toys once a week; put soft, fabric toys in the washing machine on a hot cycle and wash hard, rubber toys by hand with warm water and washing up liquid.

Bowls should be cleaned every day with warm, soapy water. Similarly, clean washable dog collars every week either in warm water with detergent or in the washing machine, and leave to dry properly. Wash your pet’s blankets and bedding regularly to stop build up of debris, fur, dead skin and fleas. Spot clean bedding as needed. If your pet is active outdoors, it is likely you will have to wash or clean it more frequently. Make sure to use a pet-safe laundry detergent/product – ask your vet for advice.

Don’t forget to clean rabbit and guinea pig hutches frequently. Carry out a ‘spot clean’ every day to remove any uneaten food, dirty bedding or other materials, and change water daily. Carry out a full clean once a week to remove all droppings and replace fresh bedding and hay. If you are spring cleaning your home, be aware that pets can be very sensitive to toxic cleaning products, which may cause unpleasant symptoms such as vomiting, lack of coordination, or burn their skin or eyes. Pets come into contact with cleaning products directly through licking and swallowing a product, or indirectly through their coat, skin or paws, or inhaling chemical fumes. Look for pet friendly/safe cleaning products, keep pets out of the room while you’re cleaning, let wet areas dry fully before letting your pet back in, and use dry cleaning products, such as carpet cleaners, with care.

By following this guidance, you can be sure that your pet is as healthy and happy as possible this spring.

The British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA, www.bsava.com) improves small animal health and welfare by driving excellence in small animal practice. As a membership Association run by the profession, for the profession, BSAVA enables small animal veterinary professionals to develop their knowledge and skills through leading-edge education, scientific research and collaboration. Its fundraising and grant awarding arm, BSAVA PetSavers (www.bsava.com/petsavers), is supported solely by charitable donations and funds veterinary research that has led to key scientific breakthroughs in the treatment of pet disease.

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