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Cats, Dogs

CRITTER CHATTER: Preparing for Spring

The Paw Print

Essential Pet Blog

“When its springtime in Alaska, [it’s forty below]”

Johnny Cash, Orange Blossom Special

The fragrance of blossoming flowers and fresh grass is slowly permeating our senses – unless you live in one of those parts of the country where high winds, freezing rain and heavy snowfall are prolonging the transition from winter to spring. Can it finally be time to think about a tan, bikini wax or shedding winter poundage? Not if you’re a dog or cat, but it is time for pet owners to prepare for warmer weather and outdoor adventures.

As cold weather lessens, your dog and cat will most likely begin shedding their winter coat. A thorough brushing will help them feel more comfortable and reduce the amount of hair floating about your house. Some breeds, such as Terriers (Tibetan, Maltese, West Highland, Wheaton, Scottish), Shih Tzu, Bichon Frise, Brussels Griffon, Portuguese Water Dog, Poodle (Toy, Miniature, and Standard), Labradoodle and Goldendoodle (hooray Charlotte) do not shed, but should be brushed weekly anyway.

Be prudent about shaving hair, as too close a trim can actually do more harm than good.  Hair is a natural insulator and keeps animals from getting too hot in the summer and reduces the potential of sunburn. However, if your dog or cat has developed serious mats during the winter, you may not have a choice.

Fleas, ticks and heartworms become more of a threat with warmer weather, and it is important to begin preventative measures to help guard against these pests. If you use preventative heartworm medication seasonally, have your dog tested for heartworm prior to beginning use.  Flea infestation can cause skin problems for pets and may result in excessive scratching and biting followed by hair loss and hotspots. Fleas also carry tapeworms in both cats and dogs.

Flea prevention can be in pill form, topical treatment or flea collar. Most flea preventatives also kill ticks that carry Lyme disease, a problem in southern states and heavily wooded areas of the Northeast.  There is both a test to detect and a vaccination to prevent Lyme disease.

Have a spring checkup by a veterinarian to ensure your pet is in good health and has not put on any extra winter pounds (like me.)  Be sure to have ear canals, gums and teeth examined and a check for any unusual lumps, bumps and early signs of skin problems.  Make sure all vaccinations required by law or for travel and boarding are up-to-date, and all owner contact information on tags or associated with a microchip is current. If you walk or hike with your dog in habitats of venomous snakes, ask your veterinarian about snake training for your dog.

Check your yard and garage for pet hazards such as unfilled holes, escape route-type fence damage, spilled antifreeze or plant debris that could be toxic. Then enjoy a springtime walk about the neighborhood with your favorite furry friend, not thinking about snow and 40° below temperatures.

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