A doctor friend of mine asked if I were busy at my hospital. “Busy enough,” I said, “for this time of year.”
“This time of year?” He looked puzzled. “What’s the time of year got to do with veterinary medicine?”
“Everything!” I said. “Trauma season is about to start.”
As New England got a surprise blast of spring weather last week, people sprang from their indoor prisons of winter, finally freed.
With more pets out and about, however, I see more emergencies: critters running free, eating bad stuff and fighting with their neighbors. The recent warm weather was a good reminder for me to remind you of some precautions.
Coco’s First Spring Day
When 70-degree weather hit Massachusetts and melted 2 feet of snow in a heartbeat, Coco, my rescue pup still in her “terrible 2s,” wasted no time in getting outside.
In 4 hours, she tried to more or less commit suicide in a variety of ways, so here are some tips for gliding smoothly into spring.
The first warm days change your habits as well as your pet’s. That garage door opens and stays open, full of pet hazards. Maybe the outdoor shed has remnants of last-minute planting and gardening supplies.
My Coco climbed on top of an old snowblower in the shed that never made it to the dump, straddled a garden cart and tried to eat through a bag of bone meal bulb fertilizer. Bone meal and many other garden supplies and garage miscellany are poisonous to pets.
So check: Did stuff topple onto floors or not get put away properly?
Check all your outdoor work spaces and make sure pets can’t investigate themselves into toxicity. Secure auto supplies, antifreeze, ice-melting materials and any other chemicals that pose a threat.
Airing Out the House
If you don’t have a fenced-in yard or a pet-safe area outside, be aware that pets are pushing their boundaries once they get those first whiffs of spring: Cats are testing escape routes and dogs are nosing their way out the door.
Are screen doors secure? Are window screens animal-proof? Does every window even have a screen? Cats love windowsills and dogs love doors with easy doorknobs.
Coco managed to stick half her body out of a vertical casement window I was cleaning and would have taken a flying leap had I not used the vacuum as a deterrent. The cat jumped on a 2nd-story windowsill while I was pushing up storm windows and pulling down screens.
So the moral of this story? You deserve brownie points for spring cleaning, but don’t let your pets help you air out the house.
Your dogs or cats may be familiar with their surroundings, but their exploring/hunting/sniffing instincts are in high gear right now. Spring awakening, with all its fabulous scents and smells, drives your pets crazy. Keep a close eye on them as they put away their snow paws and take out their running gear.
Coco’s first warm trip to the thawing pond brought trouble. Coco spent lots of time toying with a big piece of sunken driftwood at the water’s edge — but it was actually a deceased beaver disguised as a floating log. Coco was about to drag the poor beaver out by his tail when I intervened and taught her a lesson about respecting the dead.
So, yeah, you may want to watch what your critters are getting into out there.
Check out these useful spring season training tips for dogs:
Meet and Greets
Vets are busier with dog and cat fights in the spring. After a long winter’s nap, our pets can forget their manners with old friends and new arrivals.
Maybe your cat didn’t know there were new whiskers in the neighborhood until she met a new cat in your backyard without a proper introduction. New neighbors and more cats outdoors mean cat fights — with infected bite wounds as the result.
Dogs are no exception. They often forget the most important canine 10 commandments at their first spring trip to the popular dog walk: “Thou shalt not sniffeth the butt without asking.”
Even though winter has returned today and true spring was but a fleeting moment in the great Northeast, these spring-like teaser days were a blast for me and my pets. The cat got locked in the garage for only about 5 minutes and Coco, the beaver-eating bone meal connoisseur, was saved from several toxic emergencies.
Enjoy, and stay safe this spring amid the daffodils!
This pet health content was written by a veterinarian, Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD. It was last reviewed March 8, 2017.