Vail Pet Talk column: Beware of these springtime hazards to your pet
Spring is marked by an increase in trips to the emergency veterinarian. There are many common emergencies we see at our hospital that we would love to help folks become aware of and potentially prevent.
For starters, as the weather improves, we are all out playing with our dogs and naturally we want to let our dogs off leashes. We see a lot of dog bites because of this, so we urge pet owners to be cautious of the types and personalities of the pets around us, whether we are at the park or walking down the street. It is important to never trust the other dog until you get to know the owner and the pet.
We see large lacerations, bite wounds and eye injuries, among other injuries sustained from dog altercations. Should this happen to your dog, we advise you get those wounds cleaned up immediately and get to your veterinarian for evaluation, as bigger problems can arise as a consequence of infection. It is not uncommon for me to see a pet that was bitten three to five days earlier, with a large, infected area on it’s body, and unfortunately the pet now has to be sedated and a drain placed in this infection. Had the owner been proactive, the pet would not have had to go through such extensive medical care.
Cats also can sustain bites, and cat bites are the worst culprits for severe infections. As your cat is roaming out more and more, it is more susceptible to fights with other cats, so assuring your cat is up to date on its required core vaccinations is critical. In addition, all cat bites require medical attention. Have you ever noticed a swelling on your cat that feels like a small water balloon? This is a “cat bite abscess,” most likely, and needs to be lanced and drained and properly medicated. These can make your cats very ill, so don’t hesitate to get your cat to your veterinarian.
It is also very common for pets to be hit by cars during the warmer months. They are excited to be outside playing and suddenly see something that sparks their interest, and pretty soon they are in front of oncoming traffic. So, again, prevention is the best medicine. Keep your dogs on a leash and your cats close to home.
Exposure to wild animals also poses an increased risk in the springtime. Firstly, skunks and raccoons carry rabies, so again, keep your pet under control even in the forest, to prevent potential exposure. Porcupines are also out in full force as the weather warms, and when pets approach them, they can get hundreds of quills in their faces and extremities. Do not try to pull them out. Take your pet to the vet for proper sedation, as the quills can migrate internally and cause life-threatening health concerns.
In addition, be sure your pets are up to date on their rabies immunizations to prevent the potential for acquiring rabies, which can be transmissible to humans.
Orthopedic injuries are also common in the spring. For example, many folks like to throw the Frisbee or chuck the tennis ball. Activities that involve running, stopping and turning around make your pet prone to tearing the anterior cruciate ligaments in the knees. If you are playing with your dog, and suddenly he or she is holding up a rear leg, chances are there has been an injury to those ligaments, so immediate rest and an appointment with the veterinarian are important, as these ligaments require surgical repair to avoid future arthritis and painful joints.
Another very common orthopedic injury in pets in the summer is torn tendons, secondary to running over metal edging. We all love our perfectly landscaped lawns, but many unknowing pet owners put in metal edging around their flowerbeds, which is very sharp. When a pet runs over it, it will commonly cut the underside of the legs and slice tendons in half. This is an emergency, so get to the veterinarian immediately, while applying pressure to the wound to avoid blood loss.
Remember: Do not medicate your pet for the injury until you have spoken to a veterinary professional. Products such as ibuprofen and Tylenol in large doses can be toxic. Be aware of what is safe and what isn’t safe to give your injured pet.
Gastrointestinal emergencies can also be common in the spring. This is a time when many carcasses that have been frozen are beginning to thaw, and the curious pet will go and try to eat that carcass, which can not only cause parasites, but also lead to vomiting, bloody diarrhea and severe dehydration.
Have a great spring, and remember: Prevention is the best form of medicine. Be safe, and be proactive.
Sheila Fitzpatrick, DVM, owner of Mountain Mobile Vet and The Animal Hospital Center, submitted this column. You can reach her at 970-328-7085.
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