As the days start to get longer and the sunshine returns, many will begin to spend more time outside with their pets. Whilst this extra time amongst nature in the springtime is something to look forward to, it is also a good idea to be prepared for the potential hazards that this brings for our animals.
Knowing the signs of danger can help to avoid accidents, so pet owners should make sure they are aware of the potential seasonal pitfalls.
Daffodils are a symbol of spring, but they are also poisonous to dogs, cats and rabbits. Toxic alkaloids in the plant can cause symptoms from vomiting and diarrhoea to disturbances of the heart’s rhythm. The daffodil bulb is particularly dangerous, as this is where most of the alkaloids are concentrated.
Daffodils are not the only plants that can cause problems for pets. Other plants can also be dangerous, including lilies, tulips, snowdrops, azaleas and amaryllis. All parts of the lily plant are particularly toxic to cats and can cause serious damage to their kidneys, so ensure that they are kept away from your feline friend. If you are planning some springtime gardening or intend to keep some seasonal fl owers around the house, make sure that the plants you choose are safe for your pets first.
As the weather starts to warm up, some unwanted critters may also start to appear. Spring is the season for ticks, which can irritate our pets, and can also carry some dangerous diseases. Ticks tend to be found in any area where there is damp foliage. Dogs are the most at risk of tick bites, as they tend to be most likely to venture into the flora, but any pet can be affected.
Tell-tale signs of ticks include small dark specks on an animal’s fur, patches of redness and irritated skin around the affected area or excessive scratching. If you do spot a tick, removing it as soon as possible is the best option, but this must be done carefully with a tick fork.
Do not squeeze the tick, as this may cause it to vomit, pushing the tick’s saliva into your pet’s bloodstream, and raising the risk of transmission of tickborne diseases. Applying substances such as vaseline or burning alcohol to the bite area may also cause the tick to regurgitate, so are best avoided.
Use a specially designed tick removal fork to safely remove ticks. Ticks have small spines which they use to hold them in place while feeding, so it is important to use a twisting motion when removing a tick, to ensure that these parts of the tick are not left behind.
Disposing of the tick safely is important to make sure they don’t cause any further issues, so the removed tick should be placed in a jar of alcohol, put in a sealed bag, or flushed down the toilet. If you have a crush proof container to store the tick in, you can also send it to Public Health England where it will be used for disease surveillance monitoring.
While watching out for ticks is useful, pet owners should also look out for any signs of Lyme Disease if their pet does come into contact with ticks. In the weeks after a tick bite, if your pet seems more lethargic than usual, is drinking more or has stiffness in their joints (causing them to move awkwardly), then it may be best to contact your vet for a check up.
Other signs of Lyme Disease include a fever and swelling around the lymph nodes, which can be found around the shoulders and under the jaw. If you notice any of these signs, visit a vet as soon as possible, as prompt treatment will give animals the best chance of a full recovery.
WASP OR BEE STINGS
Most wasp or bee stings do not require veterinary treatment, but they can cause animals some distress. Knowing what to do if your pet does get stung can help to keep you and them calm.
The first thing to do if your pet is stung by a wasp is to check the affected area to see if the sting is still there. If so, you can scrape the sting out by using a credit card, or something similar. Be careful not to squeeze the sting, as this can push more venom into the wound. Do not worry if you cannot find the sting, this usually means that it has fallen out.
To clean the wound, rinse it with salt water: one teaspoon of salt per 500ml of cooled boiled water is a good ratio. Antibacterial agents are not necessary.
If your pet is still uncomfortable, then you can apply ice wrapped in a cloth to the affected area to cool the sting down and alleviate the pain for a maximum of 20 minutes at a time.
(There is no additional benefit of ice therapy after 20 minutes.)
If your pet has been stung around the face or throat, there is a chance that swelling may restrict or block their airways, or cause diffi culty eating or drinking. In these cases, keep calm and seek veterinary advice as soon as possible. Treatment will aim to quickly reduce the swelling.
Chocolate is well known to be dangerous to pets, but it is also an ever present hazard at Easter, especially dark chocolate. Stray Easter eggs can cause serious health issues for dogs, cats and rabbits, so it is important to be aware of the signs of chocolate poisoning.
Chocolate poisoning can have a wide range of effects, of varying severity, so there is plenty to look out for. These signs can include vomiting and diarrhoea, a sore abdomen, drooling, restlessness and even a change in heart rate. You may also notice your pet losing their balance or drinking more water, which can also be the result of chocolate poisoning.
In severe cases of chocolate poisoning symptoms may include muscle tremors, incontinence and seizures. If you see any of these symptoms in your pet, then they need to be taken to a vet as soon as possible.
Chocolate poisoning is caused by a chemical called theobromine, which is found in cocoa. This means that the higher the cocoa content of chocolate, the more dangerous it is to dogs and cats. This makes dark chocolate more dangerous for pets than milk or white chocolate.
If your dog or cat has eaten some chocolate, make sure to contact a vet as soon as possible. Keeping the wrapper of whatever you pet has eaten can also be useful, as giving the vet as much information as you can gather may help them provide the right treatment for your pet.
The vet will be able to calculate the level of risk to your pet based on their weight, and the type and amount of chocolate they have eaten, to determine if they need treatment at the clinic. To prevent your dog, cat or rabbit getting ill this Easter, make sure to keep them well away from any Easter egg hunts!
HOT CROSS BUNS
While hot cross buns are a seasonal treat at Easter, they also usually contain dried fruits, such as raisins and sultanas, making them a hazard for pets. It is not known exactly what
causes dried fruits to be toxic to dogs, but in the most extreme cases, even consuming one grape or raisin can cause kidney failure in dogs.
As with chocolate poisoning, grape or raisin poisoning can cause vomiting and diarrhoea, as well as drooling, a poor appetite, dehydration and wobbliness. Treatment of grape or raisin poisoning may include induced vomiting, if you get to a vet within a couple of hours (please note that you should not try to make your own pet vomit). They may also be given activated charcoal to adsorb toxins, or the use of intravenous fluids in more severe cases.
For owners, the most important thing to do if you think that your dog is at risk from raisin poisoning is to get them to a vet as quickly as possible and provide as much information as you can.
For more information, please visit www.firstvet.com/uk