Column: Look out for springtime menaces to your pet
Spring and summer are times of birth and growth. Baby bunnies are bouncing all over our neighborhoods, kittens and puppies are a familiar sight, and anyone with the slightest of allergies knows the plants are in their full reproductive mode.
I feel like I need a sign around my neck that says, "I'm not contagious; it's just allergies." Even poor little Squirt is sneezing his head off. He has the most unusual and violent sneeze. It's really more like several sneezes in a row that last for several seconds and sounds like a motorboat trying to start. His big eyes water and everything in the house becomes a scratching post.
As uncomfortable as his allergies might be, I know how fortunate he is not to have a more severe reaction. I have seen animals so badly affected by allergies that they barely have any skin left on their bodies and are covered in rashes. Some animals are so congested their eyes are nearly matted shut. Sometimes this is because of a viral infection, but in other cases it's just plain old allergies.
If you notice a little motorboat starting next to you, it's time to make an appointment with your veterinarian. Your veterinarian can determine if it's a result of a virus or allergies. If it turns out your little buddy has allergies, your veterinarian can give him medication to help alleviate the symptoms, but probably won't be able to tell you what your pet's allergic to without tests.
All the blooming and blossoming brings other dangers, too. Wild grass is growing everywhere, and sprouting stalks filled with foxtails, the seedpods so-called because they look like a fox's tail. They have little barbs that allow them to work their way into the soil, but they can also burrow their way through an animal's coat and penetrate the skin. They can dig down into an ear canal or throat if they're swallowed.
If your critter is shaking his head, it's important to visit your veterinarian soon. If he has a foxtail in his ear canal, a professional should remove it right away. Same goes for any abscesses that develop on your canine or your kitty - take them to the vet to check for foxtails working their way into the skin.
A lot of troubles with foxtails can be avoided. After you take your dog for a walk, check his feet, legs and head for foxtails before they begin their assault on your pooch. They're easily removed when they're still on the surface.
And let's not forget about the toxic plants. I have a friend who has just entered into the joys of raising a puppy. This particular bundle of rambunctious enthusiasm goes everywhere and gets into everything. Just like a kid, everything he sees goes into his mouth - rocks, grass, weeds and dirt. Most of us have a few weeds in our yard and some of these weeds can be very dangerous to our pets.
My friend took samples of the different plants in her backyard to Watters Design and Garden Center. They can help identify the type of plant as well as the danger it might pose to your animals. Most nurseries will also help you safely eliminate those plants that might be harmful. Also be aware of weed controlling chemicals you spray on your lawn - they go close to the ground your pets live on, and many are toxic.
The Internet is a great resource for information on dangers to your pet, including toxic plants. One of my favorite sites is an animal poison control site maintained by the ASPCA, www.aspca.org/pet-care/poison-control. A little research and a few clicks of your mouse just might keep you out of the veterinarian's office. The ASPCA also has information and tips for dealing with snakebites and an entire page of information on pet allergies. With any luck, this will quiet down my little motorboat.
Duane Adams, executive director of the Yavapai Humane Society, can be reached at email@example.com or at the shelter at 445-2666.