Saturday, March 24, 2012

Spring has sprung! Safety Tips.

Spring has returned; not that winter was that bad. In spring, there are some precautions you can take that will make your life and that of your pet much more peaceful and safe.

First, with Easter and Passover coming up, here are some items commonly found around the house during this holiday season that you should keep away from your canine and feline friends:

The Easter Lily is one holiday flower that no cat owner should have in their house (or yard if you have an outdoor kitty). All parts of this plant are considered toxic and even potentially lethal to cats. One single leaf from this plant can cause kidney failure in the feline. Lily-of-the-valley can also be cardiotoxic to dogs and cats.

We all love giving and receiving Easter Baskets, but one item that cat lovers should keep out of their baskets is Easter Grass. Just like string, dental floss, and tinsel, Easter Grass can get stuck on the barbs of a cat’s tongue- and the cat is forced to ingest it. This foreign body can become entangled around their intestines and cause circulation to be cut off in the body. This would require emergency surgery- so it is wise to keep all Easter Grass and string like objects out of reach of that curious cat!

Although we all love to indulge in a chocolate bunny, Easter eggs or Passover candies this time of year, make sure that it stays away from your canine friends! Chocolate contains theobromine, a xanthine compound which is in the same family as caffeine and theophylline- and is toxic to dogs in large doses. Xanthenes affect the nervous system and cardiovascular system primarily. Symptoms of toxicity include hyper excitability, increased heart rate, restlessness, increased urination, muscle tremors, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Do you have a green thumb? Many home owners use this time of year to begin making their yards bloom with new grass and beautiful flowers. Be aware when using fertilizers and pesticides to keep your pet’s exposure to these products extremely minimal. N-P-K- fertilizers (containing nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium salts) can cause mild gastro-intestinal upset, and also skin irritation on the paws. Fertilizers containing greater than 1% iron can cause iron toxicity if ingested by a dog. When you are done making your lawn look its best, it is wise to store all fertilizers and pesticides where children and pets cannot get to them.

When planting your spring flower gardens take time to consider which plants may be toxic to your pets. A big list of toxic plants in available at Popular mulches such as coco bean mulch are toxic to dogs and cats. This mulch contains the same toxic materials found in chocolate.

There are over 700 springtime plants that are poisonous to pets; this is just a few that many people have planted around their house. Putting up simple fences is one way to keep your pets from getting to these plants.
Tulip - Ingestion can result in intense vomiting, depression, diarrhea, hyper-salivation, drooling and lack of appetite.
Hyacinth - Ingestion can result in intense vomiting, diarrhea, depression and tremors.
Daffodil - Ingestion can result in severe gastrointestinal illness, convulsions, seizures, low blood pressure and tremors.
Peace lily - Ingestion can result in ulcers in the mouth, vomiting and diarrhea.
Easter cactus - Ingestion can result in vomiting, diarrhea and depression. Cats can also develop staggering.
Crown of Thorns - Ingestion results in vomiting and diarrhea.
Azalea - Vomiting, diarrhea, hyper-salivation, weakness, coma, hypertension, CNS depression, cardiovascular collapse and death.
Crocus - Excessive salivation, abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, gastro-intestinal disorders, lack of appetite, tremors, convulsions, seizures
Rhododendron - Vomiting, diarrhea, hyper-salivation, weakness, coma, hypertension, CNS depression, cardiovascular collapse and death.
American Bittersweet - Weakness, convulsions, gastroenteritis (vomiting, diarrhea.)
Clematis - Vomiting, diarrhea, oral ulcers, ataxia irritant
Foxglove - Cardiac arrhythmia, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, cardiac failure, death.
Lily of the Valley - Ataxia, vomiting, cardiac arrhythmia, death.
Narcissus - Severe gastrointestinal disorders, convulsions, shivering, hypertension, dermatitis, muscular tremors, and cardiac arrhythmia.
Morning Glory - Seeds may cause hallucination, may cause diarrhea.

Buzzzzzz… what is that sound? It is the return of those unwelcome guests - mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks! Fleas cause extreme skin irritation and can also cause severe allergic reactions in some pets. Tick bites are a concern in dogs due to the fact the Deer Tick, or Black-legged Tick which is prevalent in our area, can transmit Lyme disease to your canine companion. Lastly, mosquitoes can transmit heartworms to your cat or dog, which can be fatal.

Proper prevention of these parasites is made very simple by using the correct products which can be prescribed by your veterinarian. Throw away those flea collars folks! Flea collars only work on a limited area of an animal’s neck region and do not prevent fleas from biting. There are many safer and more effective products available today. Flea collars were popular in the 1980’s. Would you buy a TV or car made in 1985 or a flatscreen TV made in 2012? There are much better products sold by veterinarians today.

Spring is the season when most dogs pick up intestinal parasites. Tapeworms are contracted from fleas, when a dog licks the flea bites, and roundworms and hookworms are easily contracted as well. Whether your dog drinks from a stream or plays with another contaminated dog in the park, intestinal parasites are easy to contract. Luckily they are also easy to prevent. By placing your dog on worm prevention medication when spring starts, you can keep him healthy all season long. And many worm prevention medications also include Heart Worm prevention, which is ideal.
It is very important to read product labels very carefully on all flea and tick medications as the misuse of such medications, particularly over the counter varieties, (which I don’t approve of) can lead to acute toxicity in pets. It is important never to use a dog product on your cat, or vice versa. The ingredient “permethrin” found in some dog medications, while perfectly safe for dogs can be lethal to cats even in very small doses.

Dogs can also have severe allergic reactions to insect bites this time of year. If you notice your dog becoming acutely swollen in the muzzle, or develops hives, it is best to get him to your nearest veterinary facility as soon as possible. If left untreated, the inflammatory response can cause severe illness and respiratory distress.

Lounging by the lake can be a wonderful Spring time activity. But keep in mind when fishing, it is very important to keep all fishing line, hooks, and bait away from your pet. Hooks can easily get stuck in mouths or paws of your pet, and fishing line is extremely strong, and when swallowed can get caught up in your pets intestines, causing a blockage and surgical emergency.
Please keep your canine companions on leash when enjoying walks in the warm weather. Make sure all leashes and collars fit appropriately for your animal, and are not too worn from usage. Most pet stores even welcome you to bring your pet inside the store for a custom fitting! The streets are very busy with cars as the weather gets sunnier and we don’t want anyone running out into the road to chase those cars! Also, be aware of other animals who may not be friendly towards your pet.

Spring is the time to check your dog's collar and name tag again. Now that your dog will be outside more, be sure that his collar is snug enough not to snag on a branch and come off. Be sure your telephone number on his dog tag is up-to-date. Wipe your leash with anti-bacterial wipes once a week, to remove any dirt or contaminates that may cling both to the handle and to the leash itself, especially where it may cling around your dog's backside.
As we start to grill outdoors, remember that your pet maybe attracted to the smells from the grill. Larger dogs have been known to knock over a grill trying to reach whatever is cooking. Be sure to keep your pets a safe distance from the heat and flames of a grill or outdoor fire pits.
The domestic feline is the number one cause of death of songbirds worldwide. This is amplified in the springtime due to the high numbers of baby animals. Cats also pose a threat to other wild predators by depleting their food source and forcing them out of their home territories. If a cat must be let outside it is best to restrain them in a large run or on a lead. Always monitor your cat when they are outside on a lead and use safety collars to avoid injury. It is also important to protect your cat from parasites if they go outside including fleas, ticks, heartworm, and intestinal worms.

Dog Park Safety- Spring and summer are the times when dog parks are full of dogs. Many of these dogs are harmless but when faced with certain conditions a dog can turn suddenly and bite.

  • Stay close to your pet.
  • Introduce your dog to other dogs and watch their responses.
  • If all is friendly, then it is safe to let them play.
  • If any type of aggression is shown, take your dog to another part of the park and find a new playmate.
  • Do not try to break up a fight by getting in the middle. Use leashes or water to separate the dogs.
  • If you or your pet receives a bite wound, seek medical help to prevent infection.
In conclusion, spring is a time of year most pets truly enjoy. They have spent most of their time over the winter months inside and are now again allowed to experience the great outdoors. Remember also that spring is breeding time for many animals and might be a good time to consider spaying or neutering pets if owners have not done so already.

The Providence Veterinary Hospital Blog is a publication of Peter Herman, VMD, at the Providence Veterinary Hospital, 2400 Providence Ave. in Chester, PA. Contact Dr. Herman at 610-872-4000 or visit us at