Spring Pet Safety Tips

Spring Pet Safety Tips

Spring has sprung!  With the change in season and weather in Buffalo comes blooming flowers, spring cleaning and allergies galore!  That said, we discuss springtime safety tips for our pets.

Flowers:

Tulips and Hyacinth:

The toxic part of these plants is the bulbs (versus the leaf or flower).  When the plant parts or bulbs are chewed, or ingested, it can result in tissue irritation to the mouth and esophagus. Typical signs include profuse drooling, vomiting, or even diarrhea, depending on the amount consumed.  Large ingestions of the bulb can cause increased heart rate and changes in respiration and should be treated by a veterinarian immediately.

Daffodils:

These flowers contain lycorine.  If this substance in the flower is ingested, it will strongly trigger vomiting.  Ingestion of the bulb, plant or flower can cause severe vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and even possible cardiac arrhythmias or respiratory depression. Crystals are found in the outer layer of the bulbs which cause severe tissue irritation and drooling. Any pet with a daffodil ingestion should seek veterinary care immediately.

Lilies:

Lilies are extremely toxic to cats!  Peace, Peruvian, and Calla lilies contain oxalate crystals that cause minor signs, such as tissue irritation to the mouth, tongue, pharynx, and esophagus – this results in minor drooling or vomiting.

The more dangerous, potentially fatal lilies are Tiger, Day, Asiatic, Easter and Japanese Show lilies.  These are all highly toxic to cats!  Small ingestions of any part of the plant can result in severe kidney failure.  Ingestion of 2-3 pedals, chewing on the leaves, even drinking the water can lead to kidney failure in a cat.  If your cat is seen consuming any part of a lily, bring your cat immediately to a veterinarian!  The sooner you bring in your cat, the better and more efficiently we can treat the poisoning.

Crocus:

There are two Crocus plants: one that blooms in the spring (Crocus species) and the other in the autumn (Colchicum autumnale). The spring plants are more common and are part of the Iridaceae family. These ingestions can cause general gastrointestinal upset including vomiting and diarrhea. The Autumn Crocus is highly toxic and can cause severe vomiting, gastrointestinal bleeding, liver and kidney damage, and respiratory failure.  Signs may be seen immediately but can be delayed for days.

Lily of the Valley:

The Convallaria majalis plant contains cardiac glycosides.  These poisons interfere directly with electrolyte balance within the heart muscle.  All parts of the plant are generally considered toxic – even the water in the vase.  Clinical signs include cardiovascular signs (abnormal heart rhythm and rate), electrolyte abnormalities (a life-threatening high potassium level), gastrointestinal signs (nausea, drooling, vomiting, etc.), or central nervous system signs (dilated pupils, tremors, seizures).  Pets with any known exposure to this plant should be examined and evaluated by a veterinarian immediately.

Fertilizers:

Most fertilizers contain varying amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.  They may also contain iron, copper, zinc, cobalt, boron, manganese and molybdenum, some of which may be toxic in large concentrations. Additionally, fertilizers may also contain herbicides, pesticides and fungicides which increases the risk of poisoning. While small ingestions of fertilizer may only result in mild stomach upset, larger ingestions can result in severe poisoning from the iron, nitrogen and other chemicals. Large ingestions of meal-based fertilizers can cause a bowel obstruction or severe and painful inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis).

Blood Meal:

This is dried, ground, and flash-frozen blood and contains 12% nitrogen. While it’s a great organic fertilizer, if ingested, it can cause vomiting and diarrhea.  It can also result in severe pancreatitis, which is inflammation of the pancreas. Some types of blood meal are also fortified with iron, resulting in iron toxicity.

Bone Meal:

This is made up of defatted, dried, and flash-frozen animal bones that are ground to a powder. This “bone” is also what makes it so palatable to your dog, so make sure to keep your pet from digging in it and ingesting the soil. While this also makes a great organic fertilizer, it can become a problem when consumed as the bone meal forms a large cement in the stomach, which can cause an obstruction in the gastrointestinal tract.

Rose and plant fertilizers:

Some of these fertilizers contain disulfoton or other types of organophosphates (OP). As little as 1 teaspoon of 1% disulfoton can kill a 55 lb dog, so be careful! Organophosphates symptoms include severe drooling, urination, seizures, difficulty breathing, etc.

Pesticides/Insecticides:

Most pesticides or insecticides (typically those that come in a spray can) are basic irritants to the pet and are usually not a huge concern unless a pet’s symptoms become persistent. Some may contain an organophosphate which can be life threatening when consumed in large quantities.

Iron:

This is commonly added to fertilizers, and can result in iron toxicity.  Large ingestions can result in vomiting, bloody diarrhea, and potential cardiac and liver effects.

Screen Windows:

With the warmer temps, many of us are trading our solid winter storm windows for screen doors and windows. Unfortunately, they also unknowingly put our pets at risk—especially cats.  They are more apt to jump or fall through these types windows. Be sure to install snug and sturdy screens.  If you have a dog that is more likely to have heightened anxiety or will go towards noises, be sure that the screens are sturdy enough to keep them in the house as well.

Car Rides:

This time of year, we start to keep the windows down during our car rides.  While most dogs love to feel the wind on their furry faces, allowing them to ride in the beds of pick-up trucks or stick their heads out of moving-car windows is dangerous. Flying debris and insects can cause inner ear or eye injuries and lung infections, and abrupt stops or turns can cause major injury, or worse!  Be sure your pet is secured safely in the car, we recommend crates or seatbelt harnesses designed for dogs.

Spring Cleaning:

Most household surface cleaning products only result in minor signs of vomiting and diarrhea; these are products that you typically spray on windows and kitchen counters to wipe them down. However, there are certain cleaning products in your house that can be dangerous to dogs and cats. Products that pose the biggest danger are: drain cleaners, pool chemicals, concentrated dishwashing chemicals, vinegar, metal cleaners, anti-rust compounds, drain cleaners, lime-removal products, oven cleaners and concentrated toilet cleaners.  These products can cause chemical burns when ingested or when accidentally exposed to the fur and skin. Signs include red, raw skin, blistering the skin, drooling, tearing or pawing at the eyes, lethargy, difficulty swallowing, ulcerations in the mouth, difficulty breathing, vomiting and abdominal pain.  If your dog or cat is accidentally exposed to these chemicals, it requires immediate care.  Untreated, it can result in severe tissue damage and burns.

Allergies:

Like us, pets can be allergic to foods, dust, plants and pollens. Spring can be a big time of year for allergy flair ups.  Most pets manifest allergies through skin problems.  Allergic reactions in dogs and cats can cause itching, ear infections (redness, shaking, scratching, debri, etc), scooting the back end, licking the paws, skin infections/skin issues, minor sniffling and sneezing, or life-threatening anaphylactic shock to insect bites and stings. If you suspect your pet has a springtime allergy, please visit your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Bee Stings:

Like people, some dogs can have an allergic reaction to bee stings.  Symptoms can range from facial swelling, itching or pawing at the area they were stung, vomiting, fever or if a severe reaction is occurring- difficulty breathing and anaphylaxis.

Heartworm:

Spring time also brings out bugs- that includes mosquitos!  We recommend heartworm treatment year round to protect your pets against this potentially fatal disease.  Heartworm disease is 100% preventable if treated year round!  Heartworm is transmitted by mosquitoes so if you treat your pets seasonally you want to start as soon as the temperatures get warm.  Keep in mind we see mosquitoes earlier and earlier every year (we had a very hot summer, mild winter this year causing our “seasonal” treatments to be needed earlier).  Be sure to treat even those dogs that go outdoors for short periods of time.  We have all seen a mosquito or two that was capable of sneaking into our houses, imagine if that mosquito was carrying heartworm- now your pets are at risk!  You have no way of knowing which mosquitos are carriers and which are not.  We have recently seen an increase in heartworm positive dogs in our area, last year alone we had a few heartworm positive dogs.  Heartworm can be transmitted if you travel with your pet to southern states where heartworm is highly prevalent.  That includes if you take your dogs on vacations with you or if you go to Florida for the winter months.  Following Hurricane Katrina when 250,000 pets, many of them infected with heartworms, were adopted and shipped throughout the country causing an increase in heartworm to many areas.  Heartworms live in the heart, lungs and associated blood vessels of affected pets, causing severe lung disease, heart failure and damage to other organs in the body.

Added bonus… heartworm medications also intestinally deworm each month.  This will help protect your pet from worms they may pick up on your everyday walk, in the dog park, etc.

Fleas:

Fleas can be a year round problem, but our pets are especially at high risk during the warmer months!  Since we had a hot summer and mild winter, the fleas have over populated and we have been having YEAR ROUND infestations.  It only takes 30-40 degrees for fleas to come out!  Fleas can come in to your house on your pant legs, through screen doors, or they can come in on any pet that goes outside (even a dog that briefly goes out or cats that just go on the porch).  We have been seeing fleas all winter long!

Ticks:

Ticks are commonly found in tall grasses, brushy areas and woods. It only takes 30-40 degrees for ticks to come out!  Erie County is at high risk for Lyme Disease… beware!  We have already started to pull ticks off dogs!  With our hot summer and mild winter, ticks and lyme disease have been very prevalent.