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Keeping Our Fur Children Healthy

07/31/2009 05:00PM ● Published by Wendy Sipple

Photo courtesy of Veterinary Pet Insurance Company.

The arrival of each season brings a new environment; whether it is the arrival of winter snows or summer sun, each may have its own challenges for pet owners. It’s important to know how these seasonal changes may affect your companion animal and how you can be prepared for them.

The holidays of fall bring food for us all; however, this may lead to problems for our four-legged friends. The most life threatening of which is pancreatitis, caused by high fat foods such as fatty meats, gravy or chicken skin. Although bones are a favorite for dogs, they may cause digestion issues or even get stuck. Stay away from these and try safer, healthier treats such as baby carrots, green beans or treats made especially for your canine friend. Other foods for your dog to avoid include chocolate and grapes, which may be dangerous to dogs. Finally, as visitors come and go, keep track of your pets that might slip out the door or become stressed due to the unusual activity level.

Winter, oh so cold in much of the country. The cold stresses all of our bodies, however, older dogs need to stay extra warm. Ideally, your dog or cat will be inside with their people, however, if unable to stay indoors, all animals need a solid and stable draft-free structure with unfrozen water available. Animals may even need a little more food in the winter, as they require increased energy to stay warm. In colder climes, cats will often sleep inside the engine compartments of cars to stay warm, so a quick check before starting the car is advised. Holiday decorations, especially ribbon and tinsel, may be eaten and cause blockages in animals…so keep pets away from trees and trim. Additionally, electric cords may be tempting for puppies and kittens to chew on; this could result in severe shock and burn to their mouths, therefore, animal proofing all cords and appliances is recommended. Remember that some plants, such as mistletoe, may be toxic to both animals and children and should be kept out of reach. Lastly, when you start that fireplace up, remember to use a protective screen to prevent pets from getting injured or from inadvertently starting a fire.

Along with spring’s warmer weather comes an array of potential hazards for pets. Bees, wasps and other stinging insects may cause allergic reactions that often show up as hives and facial swelling. Having Benadryl on hand can alleviate these symptoms and save your animal much suffering. Consult your veterinarian for the proper dosage before administering. Pollens abound, often resulting in itchy skin, rashes and ear infections in dogs while cats can show asthma-like symptoms; both usually require veterinary care and medicine to alleviate these problems. Additionally, fleas and ticks thrive this time of year and monthly flea and tick control is a must. Consistent vacuuming indoors is a big help to keep fleas at bay and there are many safe, effective solutions easily available through your veterinarian. Along with spring often comes the pesky mosquito. While a nuisance to us, the mosquito can prove dangerous to animals as a mosquito bite can transmit heartworm to animals; year-round preventatives may be necessary in your area.

Although the summer is the height of vacation season, the extreme temperatures often prove dangerous for animals. Animals housed outdoors need to have proper shelter with lots of shade and access to cool water. Consider bringing your animal inside on days with high temperatures. Dogs and parked cars should never go together as, on a warm day, the temperature inside a car can easily reach 140 to 150 degrees, even with the windows down and some shade. Heatstroke and brain damage can occur quickly, so the safest place for the family pet is at home.

Overheating from activity is also common in dogs, so playtime and exercise should be limited to the cooler hours of the day. Dogs cool themselves through panting and short nosed dogs have a more difficult time cooling. Keep active play limited in the heat and have lots of water on hand. If overheated, a dog needs rest, water (even on his head) and shade. The high summer temperatures may also heat up asphalt and pavement, burning and even blistering your dog’s tender feet. Do any running in the early morning or evening and monitor your dog’s footpads. And don’t forget about the Fourth of July. While Independence Day is a day of celebration for us, the noise and activity can be extremely stressful for animals, often causing destructive behavior and a desire to escape. Find a quiet, isolated spot for your animal and, based on your animal’s reactions, consider whether or not they can be safely left alone. Having a collar and tag on your animal makes it easier for any escapees to make their way back to you, and a microchip is the best form of animal identification available.

With each changing season, a few simple adjustments and precautions can go a long way toward keeping your pet happy and healthy.

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