Spring Health Hazards For Pets


Written by Dr. Chip Coombs

After a long, cold winter, what is there not to look forward to with Spring upon us? Well, there are the plethora of land mines that await clean-up once the last of the snow disappears! However, the new scents and smells are always an inviting treat for your pet, who is just as excited to explore all the new wonders that Spring brings every year. Not everything that presents itself at this time of year is joyous and fun filled, though, and there are some nasty things that can harm our pets if we drop our guard.

Anti-freeze – comes in many forms and with the warmer weather comes a desire for pet owners, who are keen to tune up their cars, to start changing and topping up the various automobile fluids that are so necessary. By far the most toxic is anti-freeze, used in radiator and windshield wiper fluids. This product, although safe alternatives exist, is still very commonly used and is extremely toxic in very small amounts. It is sweet tasting and even a small lick can be fatal to your pet. Extreme caution to avoid spillage and a thorough washing down of any spillage area is very important. For owners that have cottages, this product is still used to preserve the plumbing over winter. After a long drive from the city to open up the cottage for the first time in the Spring, your dog may rush inside to have a drink from the toilet. If this were to happen, the consequences would be fatal.

Ticks – start to become active under the leaf layer at any temperature above 4 degrees Celsius. As much as we dislike ticks, they are here to stay and the nastiest ones – black-legged ticks that carry Lyme disease – are spreading significantly year after year. The safest approach is to assume that these ticks reside where you live, even if told otherwise. Climate change has enhanced their spread and they are no longer an isolated threat. The spread of multiple diseases from ticks is a risk not only for your pets, but also for you.

Tick awareness should begin before the snow has left us. There are excellent topical and oral products available (which can be used together) to safeguard your outdoor pet. For owners, such products don’t exist and so regular self-tick checks, at least once daily, are in order. Of course, Heartworm disease is still around, but it becomes more of an issue when the outside temperature rises above 21 degrees Celsius and those pesky mosquitoes, which transmit the disease, show up for late spring and summer.

Easter – is a fun and celebratory time each year, especially for children. However, most owners need a gentle reminder that chocolate, which comes in so many forms, is toxic for dogs. Milk chocolate is not always an issue unless your dog is small, but some of the other forms of chocolate (dark chocolate or baking chocolate) can be very toxic. Easter candies that contain the non-sugar sweetener Xylitol are also very toxic to dogs. Dogs are not usually offered these products, but if Easter hunts don’t turn up all the hidden chocolate prizes, you can count on your dog finding them at some point in the near future.

A common indoor plant at this time of year is the Easter Lilly. Any member of the Lillium plant family is extremely toxic to cats, but it is only natural that they will check anything new brought into the house.

Gardens – become the focus of many pet owners in the Spring. There are all the land mines to be disposed of that may have accumulated over the winter. However, lawns get fertilized and herbicides are sprayed to minimize weeds. If such products are part of your Spring ritual, be aware that they are very toxic to your pets and those of your neighbours’. Backyard lawns are more difficult to access, but front lawns are crossed by many pets over the course of a day and they cannot read signs posted that indicate that chemicals have been used. In addition to the chemicals, numerous beautiful flowers, like azaleas, rhododendrons, tulips, and others can be enticing and toxic to inquisitive pets. Another chemical to be aware of is a product used commonly as a snail/ slug poison, called metaldehyde. It comes in different forms, but usually is placed on the soil surface and is easily eaten by dogs and cats alike. Seizure activity and death can follow consumption, so if you or your neighbours have pets, other snail solutions should be in order.

Spring Cleaning – becomes a necessity every year that few owners relish. The cleaning can take place inside and outside of your house or apartment and, invariably, chemicals will be used to get rid of the accumulated dirt and grime. There are numerous effective pet friendly products available and, whenever possible, try to avoid using products with chlorine bleach or ammonia base, as they are toxic to people and pets.

Bodies of water – including swimming pools are wonderful to live near all year round. However, in early Spring, when the ice is thawing, they can become obvious hazards for pets and children. If your dog does fall through the ice and you know the water is deeper than waist height, DON’T try to rescue him! First, seek help and attach a rope to yourself and something immovable on shore. Every year, some owners will drown trying to rescue their dog. The dog is still frantically swimming around in a circle, long after the owner has succumbed to hypothermia and disappeared.

Park Etiquette – may have fallen to the wayside over the long winter months and there may be some new dogs that moved into the neighbourhood. Close supervision and the use of leashes, until the gang gets reacquainted with one another, is always a prudent way to avoid dust-ups on the first few Spring park visits. Cats are more likely to get into neighbourhood fights with resultant abscesses in the Spring. Curfews and coordinating with neighbours may be helpful in avoiding some of these confrontations.

Spring is a wonderful time of year that brings new life and enthusiasm into our lives. Simple precautions with our pets can ensure that we all get to enjoy it together.


Spring into action and protect your pet, not only this season but every day of the year. Learn more and get a quote today!