As winter’s chill gives way to warmer days and spring flowers here are some tips for owners for helping their dogs enjoy a happy, healthy spring season.
Spring represents a time of growth and renewal—but not everything that springs forth this season is good for dogs. With a little awareness and a few simple precautions, dog owners can prevent many of the problems that arise with warmer weather and keep their dogs safe and healthy.
The American Heartworm Society recommends that all dogs be tested annually for heartworm infection. Transmitted by mosquitoes, this serious parasitic disease can be fatal. Fortunately, your veterinarian offers a variety of options for preventing heartworm infection, including an injection, daily and monthly tablets, and monthly topical medications.
Fleas and ticks
Fleas and ticks can cause a host of problems, from flea allergy dermatitis to Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. In large enough numbers, both ticks and fleas can also cause dangerous amounts of blood loss, especially in young dogs. While a number of flea and tick prevention options are available today, monthly spot-on topicals and oral tablets offer convenience and effectiveness in protecting your dog. There are now topical organic solutions readily available. Ask your veterinarian for more information.
Blooming plants, grasses and flowers can trigger atopy, an allergy similar to hay fever. But instead of sneezing, a dog typically develops itchy skin and will persistently scratch, lick and bite to get relief. If you suspect that your pooch may be suffering from seasonal allergies, visit your veterinarian for recommended allergy treatments. These can range from oral medications to skin tests that pinpoint allergies in more severe cases.
Inquisitive dogs might see those fragrant spring blooms as a tasty snack, but dogs can become extremely ill or even die from eating poisonous plants. Ask your vet for a list of poisonous plants you’ll want to avoid having in your garden. You can also help prevent your dog from digging by not gardening with your dog present—he may conclude that digging is acceptable and enjoy digging to underground pipes or chewing on sprinkler heads.
If a lawn—yours or another’s—has been treated with fertilizers, herbicides or insecticides, do not let your dog walk on it until these potentially dangerous treatments have dried completely.
If your furry friend has taken on an offensive aroma over the winter, find out where the smell is coming from. Odor in your dog’s mouth could mean dental problems, digestive problems or underlying internal diseases, such as kidney problems or diabetes. If his teeth are discolored or he has an odor worse than his usual doggie breath, have your veterinarian perform a dental exam. Next, check his ears. If the skin inside is red or sore, if the ear has a bad smell, or if your dog reacts in pain when you examine his ears, have your vet check him for an ear infection. Also check your dog’s skin for the common disorder seborrhea, usually characterized by flaky dandruff or an oily, waxy feel to the coat and a strong odor. You can prevent this by frequently bathing your dog with a medicated shampoo that your veterinarian can recommend. Finally, an infection or anal gland problems can also lead to odor and discomfort, in which case your dog will need to be seen by your veterinarian.
Enjoy the Outdoors and Reinforce Training
In addition to the above health and safety tips, take advantage of the longer days and warmer temperature to refresh your training skills and build upon your relationship with your dog. Remember that we all tend to hibernate a little over the winter. Spring is an invitation to renew our commitment to exercise and a more active lifestyle for us and our dogs. After a long winter, your dog may have forgotten his manners about walking properly on leash. Start out slowly and reestablish the proper leash rules for you and your dog’s safety. Using basic obedience disciplines you can help reinforce the relationship you want to have with your dog. Walking to heel, coming when called, and gate manners are some of the basics that can sharpen your dog’s response to you and build a stronger relationship.
Jeri Wagner is a canine behavioral therapist and master trainer. Jeri uses a natural training system leveraging the same communication methods – body language and voice control – that dogs follow as part of their instinctive pack mentality. Training takes place in the home where the problems generally occur. Jeri trains in western Montgomery County, northern Chester County and eastern Berks County. For more information, call 1-877-500 BARK (2275) or visit www.barkbusters.com.
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