How to prepare your pet for spring

How to prepare your pet for spring

Spring is finally in the air! As excited as most of us are to say goodbye to the days of being cooped up inside, our pets are likely even more excited to once again stretch their legs and explore the outdoors.

But with warmer temperatures come new outdoor considerations. Prepare your furry friend by following this spring pet checklist.

Hinder heartworms

While you should administer heartworm prevention medication year-round, it’s especially vital that you give your pet a preventive when the weather gets warmer. Heartworm, a parasitic worm that lives in the heart and pulmonary arteries of an infected animal, spreads through mosquitoes.

Preventing heartworm disease in dogs is much easier than treating it, a process that usually takes a series of injections, hospitalization and exercise restriction. Some cats can fight off the disease themselves, but no approved treatments exist in the U.S. for feline heartworm.

Dog or cat heartworm preventives come in the form of a monthly chewable. However, you’ll need to obtain a prescription from your veterinarian, who may require a heartworm test before supplying the medication.

Make fleas flee

Fleas, parasites that feed on blood, can jump up to 2 feet in the air, which makes your four-legged friend’s fur their personal breeding ground.

Flea bites itch, which can lead to excessive scratching, licking and biting at the skin. In addition to skin irritation, fleas can cause hair loss and tapeworms in both cats and canines. Dogs with particularly bad reactions to fleas may get hot spots, or red, itchy spots on the skin that often appear moist and oozing.

Even if your feline friend never takes a single step outdoors, you should still administer flea preventives since humans easily track fleas in from outdoors.

Flea preventives may be administered in pill form or through a topical treatment. Some brands offer both flea and heartworm prevention.

Turn away ticks

Ticks can transmit Lyme disease and other illness to dogs. Cats can also contract sicknesses similar to Lyme disease. If you live in an area with high tick infestations, such as in southern states or heavily wooded areas of the Northeast, be sure to treat your pet.

To prevent ticks, apply a topical treatment ­— most flea preventives also kill ticks ­— or fit them with a tick collar.

Alleviate allergies

Airborne allergens cause problems in the spring. If your pet exhibits signs of allergies — sneezing, coughing, increased scratching, vomiting, runny eyes — set up an appointment with your vet. They can help you create the best course of treatment to alleviate the symptoms.

Some treatments include allergy shots and medication, but only under direction from your veterinarian.

Practice proper grooming

Cats and dogs need to be brushed and bathed, especially in warmer weather. Brush all pets at least once a week, but comb daily if your companion’s coat is prone to tangles.

Baths rid fur coats of airborne allergens that could make your pets’ allergies worse, so give them a bath every few weeks. Don’t bathe them too frequently, though, because it can irritate their skin.

Shaving your long-haired pet could actually be doing more harm than good. Fur acts as an animal’s insulation, and keeps them from getting too cold in the winter and from getting too hot in the summer.

Sources: American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Humane Society of Tampa Bay

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Contrary to popular belief, cats are just as much at risk for heartworms as dogs and should receive preventative medication, Beckendorf says. (Photo credit: Angie's List member Char R. of Columbus, Ohio)
Contrary to popular belief, cats are just as much at risk for heartworms as dogs and should receive preventative medication, Beckendorf says. (Photo credit: Angie's List member Char R. of Columbus, Ohio)

Knowing the types of parasites that put your pet at risk, along with the signs you should be looking for, can help you maintain your pet's overall health.

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