We seem to have had something of a proper winter this year and will welcome the warm weather again, for our pets as well as ourselves. But beware of some hazards that can come from spring visitors as well as from plants and products we commonly find in our gardens.
The colder winter hopefully means that less slugs and snails survived but that doesn't mean we should drop our guard against these. Slugs and snails transmit Lungworm which is serious and frequently fatal and they are tempting morsels for dogs, inquisitive puppies especially. Even if dogs don’t eat them deliberately the slug's slime trail can be dangerous if they eat grass. Clearing slugs and snails from the garden is a near impossible task so it is important to prevent lungworm as it is difficult to treat. Remember if you are putting down slug bait that it is palatable to dogs and highly toxic so you must prevent them gaining access to it or better, use something else like beer traps.
Ticks can be a problem in Spring and although we are lucky that locally these do not usually carry serious diseases, if you're travelling to other parts of the UK notably the South West, the New Forest or Epping Forest there are ticks which can carry potentially fatal diseases and these are spreading. Thankfully multi-purpose combined flea and worm products (we now have a choice of effective tablets and spot-on products) are available from us and can also treat fleas, lungworm, ticks and mites - like the one that causes sarcoptic mange, which is also easily caught in the garden from fences and bushes urban foxes have rubbed against.
The pollen count will be going up as hay fever sufferers know and animals, especially dogs, can suffer from hay fever too. They do not however generally snuffle and sneeze but suffer from red itchy skin especially on the ears, paws and under belly. Chronic ear conditions are often caused by this and sometimes is the only sign and can be misdiagnosed. Unfortunately once animals have this problem it means lifelong treatment but symptoms can be helped by avoiding long grass. Fortunately modern effective treatment for this condition (known as Atopic dermatitis) means that we are no longer dependent on drugs with side effects and time consuming messy shampoos.
While grass is a natural diet for rabbits, spring lawn grass is lush and low in fibre and can cause diarrhoea so allow access sparingly. Remember: never to give lawn mowings to rabbits or guinea pigs as it will ferment and cause stomach upsets.
Tortoises may be waking up now from their winter slumbers (that's if they hibernated to start with - the warm autumn meant many started waking up without sufficient body reserves so had to be kept awake throughout the winter). Waking tortoises should be given warm water baths at least once a day to stimulate their metabolism and allow them to drink (they also adsorb water through their cloaca) and given a variety of dark greenstuffs (avoid pale lettuce) fresh fruit, and wetted tortoise pellets dusted in vitamin and calcium powder.
Tulips and daffodils are poisonous, especially their bulbs, however lilies pose a particular hazard for cats because they are attracted to them and all parts are very toxic including the pollen. Cats often sniff the pollen or get it on their coats. This applies to lilies indoors as well and I would advise anyone with cats to avoid displays of lilies which are accessible to them.
As the weather warms up so fleas become more active so remember to continue adequate flea and parasite control. Most pet shop products are ineffective so we can recommend a multi-purpose product as mentioned above.
St Martins Veterinary Clinic
126 Station Road
Tel.: 01895 444400
Fax: 01895 431520
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