A warm weather checklist to keep your pet happy and healthy all season long
By Travis Brorsen
Pet Exert, Trainer and TV Host
Springtime is an exciting time, especially if you have pets. This is the time of year we can get out and about with our fur babies. It’s also a time when many pet owners take for granted the unsuspecting hazards posed to our furry friends. But with a little preparation, we can ensure springtime is not only fun but also safe for our four-legged family members.
Warm Weather and Insects
Warmer weather means more time outside. More time outside means, well … where should we start? There are the obvious activities, such as hiking, going to the lake, camping and cookouts. Unfortunately, fleas and ticks often accompany these things. Did you know that a flea can jump up to 7 inches horizontally and 13 inches vertically? If you’re wondering, that’s the equivalent of a 6-foot-tall man jumping over a building that is 480 feet tall.
Why does this fun fact matter? When your dog is out and about this spring, those little critters could be anywhere, jumping from one host to the next. Just the thought of that makes my skin crawl. If that isn’t enough, fleas carry tapeworms. If your dog ingests a flea, it develops into an adult in the GI tract of the host. So, if you don’t want little white worms crawling around on your dog or cat’s rear end, take action now. Visit with your local veterinarian for the choice that fits your pet best.
Now let’s talk about ticks. I’m sure you’ve heard of Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF), Lyme disease and even ehrlichiosis. These illnesses come from ticks, so consult your veterinarian if you aren’t already taking preventative measures.
Mosquitoes also love the warm weather and can carry a parasite worm called dirofilaria immitis. These worms are spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. Make sure your dog is on a heartworm preventative if you live in an area with these pesky flying punks.
Time for a Landscape Update
Spring is a great time for a little landscaping, and, typically, with that activity comes fertilizer and pesticides. I won’t bore you with the details of what to watch out for; just make sure that your landscapers are using pet-friendly products. An option like Pet Safe Lawn Fertilizer 5M is a great, pet-safe product.
Spring Cleaning for You and Your Pets
How often do you wash your pet’s toys, bowls or even collars? Well, believe it or not, toys are the perfect breeding ground for bacteria, yeast and mold. You can handwash them using mild dish soap and hot water. If they are washing-machine safe, even better! This is also a good time to throw out any toys you don’t need anymore.
A study by the National Safety Federation (NSF) found pet food bowls to be the fourth germiest item in the house. Make it a habit to wash your pet’s bowls daily. Using dishwasher-safe bowls can make this an easy process for you. Don’t forget about the litter box, which needs a deep clean as well. Simply empty the old litter and wash it out with warm water and dish soap. Make sure to dry it thoroughly before adding new litter.
Now, it’s time for you to do some cleaning of your own. Household chemicals can be dangerous to you and your pets. Be sure to use pet-safe products or, at the very least, keep your supplies put away when the pets are out and about.
There is nothing like a good Easter egg hunt. But if you plan to include your furry friends, make sure you know what’s being hunted. Chocolates and other sweets can be dangerous to your pooch. I recommend having a special hunt just for your pets. Using pet-approved treats, hide them around the house or yard and watch as they use their sniffers to find the goodies. If your children enjoyed a successful egg hunt, make sure they keep their treats out of the reach of your pets. This simple tip could save you lots of time, money and maybe even the life of your pet.
An extra word of cation: many manufacturers tout sugar-free products these days, including candy manufacturers. Be aware that xylitol, a natural sweetener, is toxic for dog. One candy dropped on the floor and eaten by your dog could be detrimental. Check your labels.
You might notice your dog eating grass, and most of the time, there is no reason to be alarmed. Dogs eat grass for many reasons. For instance, they could be lacking a nutritional need, such as fiber. They could have an upset stomach, attempting to improve digestion or even treating intestinal worms. At the end of the day, the important thing is that your dog isn’t eating grass with harmful chemicals on it. If you have your yard treated with any chemicals, check to make sure they are pet-safe products.
Springtime brings playtime! If you are going to be on the move, make sure your dog has been microchipped. You can also get an ID tag at most pet stores that includes your name and phone number. If your dog hasn’t traveled with you before, make sure to introduce him to the car slowly. Take a few short trips around the neighborhood. No food or water two and half hours before the trip will help.
Many dogs get carsick just like people, so if you have an early morning departure, just wait until you arrive at your final destination to feed your dog as long as it’s in the same day. If you are hitting the road, a travel crate is a great, safe option. Travel crates are typically hard plastic and easy to strap down. You could also use a doggie seat belt or safety harness. Whatever you do, don’t let your fur babies loose in the car. Do yourself and those you love a favor and secure your pet when you travel.
Don’t stress too much. Your pets can read your body language. If you are uptight, anxious and worried about what you think might happen, you will miss the opportunity to enjoy the day with your pets. After all, they just want to spend time with you. Do yourself a favor and go for a walk, a hike or read a good book with your pet on your lap. Whatever you do, remember: unconditional love is all they know. They don’t hold grudges or blame you for anything. Just showing up for your pet lets him or her know you care.