Spring is on the way – but watch out for these unexpected seasonal pet hazards…
If you want to avoid a pet emergency this spring, it’s important to take a closer look at some springtime hazards that vets would like pet owners to be aware of.
For humans, springtime is our favourite season, according to various polls – and, with longer days and a hint of sunshine, our pets enjoy it too. However, according to Vets Now, it’s a surprisingly dangerous time for our pet animals. The organisation, which provides out-of-hours pet emergency care, reveals that call volumes from worried pet owners increase by up to 50% over the Easter weekend alone. The reason for the spike in emergency calls? It’s often due to pets chewing, swallowing or eating things they shouldn’t, which can cause all manner of problems.
Foods that should carry a pet health warning
Whether that’s chocolate Easter eggs (chocolate contains a stimulant called theobromine, that’s toxic to dogs, cats and other animals), hot cross buns (raisins, currents, sultanas, along with grapes, are all poisonous for dogs), or even that crunchy salad favourite – the spring onion – (which can cause stomach irritation and lead to blood cell damage and anaemia) – there are all sorts of everyday human foods that can make pets seriously ill.
WHY IS IT THAT SOME DOGS WILL EAT ANYTHING?
Vets Now has some good explanations:
- They’re natural scavengers
- They explore with their mouths
- Like humans, they eat when they’re bored
- They may have a medical condition, such as diabetes
- They may not be getting enough nutritious dog food
Deadly flowers and plants
While spring flowers are a welcome sight after a miserable winter, if you have pets, it pays to know your blooms, as some are extremely toxic.
The bulbs of spring flower favourite – the sunny daffodil – are particularly poisonous and, if eaten, can cause severe vomiting and diarrhoea and, in the worst cases, can be fatal.
Tulips, hyacinth and amaryllis aren’t quite as toxic, but the bulbs are dangerous if eaten in large quantities by a dog that’s discovered a fun new game by digging them up.
Colourful rhododendrons and azaleas may brighten up a flowerbed, but they contain a highly toxic substance called grayanotoxin, which can cause nausea, vomiting, difficulty breathing and coma.
Even the humble buttercup peeping up in your lawn is mildly poisonous and can cause drooling, vomiting and seizures.
If you have cats, then that Easter floral favourite – lilies – are an absolute no-no. In fact, lilies are so poisonous to felines that a cat can suffer fatal kidney failure just from nibbling a leaf, licking pollen off their coat or even from drinking water from a vase with cut lilies in it.
WHY IS IT THAT SOME CATS CHEW ON ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING?
Vets Now suggests the following reasons:
- They’re curious about the smell and texture
- To relieve stress
- They’re bored
- They may have a nutrient deficiency
- To mimic the shearing of prey
- For dental reasons, such as teething
Garden hazards for your pets
If you have pets, then their health, safety and wellbeing should be a priority when it comes to managing your patch of lawn, hanging baskets and potted plants. Fertilisers, insecticides, herbicides and slug and snail pellets are all best avoided. Instead, why not focus on creating a wildlife garden to encourage natural pollinators such and bees, and natural pest predators such as hedgehogs, frogs and toads?
Also avoid cocoa mulch as a soil dressing as, just like chocolate, it contains theobromine. If your dog eats cocoa mulch, you’ll need to seek immediate veterinary help.
If you have a cat that enjoys eating grass (some do!) then avoid coarse or ornamental grasses. Felines can be at risk of getting thick grass blades stuck in their nose and throat, which can cause breathing problems, sneezing and nasal discharge. Instead, invest in some cat-friendly grass seed pouches, grow your own kits or ready-grown grass. Companies such as My Cat Grass have a range of varieties including Organic Spelt Wheat (lush, dark green leaves), Organic Barley (softer shoots, for cats with sensitive digestion) and Organic Oat (nutrient rich).
There are lots of ways to create a beautiful, enriching and safe garden that pets and their human friends can enjoy together. Why not take inspiration from Dogs Trust’s first dog friendly garden that was revealed at RHS Hampton Court Flower Show in 2016 and has since been installed at the charity’s Harefield rehoming centre. This space provides exciting areas to forage and explore, with two water features, a digging area, large trees to provide shelter, sniffer tracks and a pavilion.
- Find out how to create a wellbeing garden for your dog >>
- Find out how to create an outdoor haven that will encourage your feline friend to stay closer to home and out of mischief >>
- Protecting against predators and identifying and removing hazards is an essential part of rabbit-proofing your garden >>
WHY DO SOME SMALL PETS EAT THINGS THAT AREN’T GOOD FOR THEM?
Burgess in-house vet, Dr Suzanne Moyes, advises: “Small pets rely on their human to provide them with a safe, nutritious, well-balanced diet that’s specifically designed to meet all their health and nutrition needs. If they come across something that looks good to explore, nibble or snack on, they’re likely to go right ahead. That’s why it’s essential to ensure that small furries, such as rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas, ferrets and rats, who may enjoy some free-roaming time, either outdoors or indoors, are always supervised and are never given access to anything that can cause them harm.”
- Do rabbits eat cucumber or broccoli? Can chinchillas eat carrots? What veg is safe for guinea pigs? We’ve all the need-to-know small furry nutrition info here >>
Which insects are dangerous for your pets?
Slugs and snails may seem pretty harmless – apart from when they’re munching on your marigolds, but they can carry lungworm, a potentially fatal disease in dogs. Dogs can become infected if they eat slugs and snails deliberately, or by accident, for example when munching on grass, drinking from puddles or outdoor water bowls, or picking up toys left outside. Prevention is always better than cure and a regular vaccination and parasite routine, as advised by your vet, should provide all the protection against worms, ticks (see below), fleas and other nasties.
Ticks are small, blood-sucking parasites that happily hitch a ride on pet dogs, cats, (and us!) to take a meal before dropping off, engorged with blood, a few days later. When the tick is feeding, it’s irritating for the pet – but ticks can also cause unpleasant skin reactions and lumps that can become sore and infected.
More worryingly, ticks can carry dangerous infections such as Lyme disease, which requires immediate veterinary treatment and can also infect humans. Ticks are most commonly found on your pet’s head and neck, around their ears, in whiskers, or on their legs after walks in long grass, particularly near livestock. Ticks can be removed using a special tick removal device, available from your vet or pet shop. Slide it under the tick and turn anticlockwise. Do not pull. Be careful to remove the whole tick, including legs or mouthparts. If you’re unsure about removing a tick correctly, your vet will be able to do it for you.
Curious pets who decide to investigate a wasp or bee too closely may end up getting stung. Insect stings most commonly occur on a forelimb or around the face, causing pain and swelling. The consequences of an insect sting are not usually serious, unless an animal develops an obstruction to its breathing due to a sting within the back of the mouth, or if they have an allergic reaction. If this is the case, your pet will need emergency treatment from your vet.
Adders, the UK’s only venomous snake, will venture out of hibernation during the sunny days of spring and it’s the time of year they’re most likely to bite. As their venom is highly dangerous to dogs and cats, be on your guard, particularly in rough, open countryside. If your pet is bitten, it can cause severe pain, swelling around two small puncture wounds, as well as breathing problems, and you’ll need see a vet pronto.
- If you have pets, it’s always best to be prepared and know some basic pet first aid. Regular checks will help you spot if something’s not right, but would you know what to do in an emergency? >>
- You can also sign up to the Excel Bunny Base– a safe Facebook community for rabbit guardians that are looking for advice and friendly discussions from likeminded owners – and there are lots of cute bunny photos and videos!
- Or why not join the Excel Squeak Squadon Facebook? Find advice and enjoy friendly discussions with likeminded guinea pig owners. You can also join Berry & Bramble, our special G-force guinea pigs, on weekly missions and fun competitions.
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