Ah, springtime. The rain stops pouring, the flowers come out and the sun shines. Isn’t it great? Well, mostly. Warmer temperatures and blooming plants also mean a new host of possible hazards for your dog. We’re not suggesting you keep your precious pup in a hermetically sealed tube – dogs love to play outside and have pretty good instincts for avoiding danger on their own. Nevertheless, there are a few hazards we suggest you look out for when taking your dog out around Victoria.
Speargrass is a plant with fine, hair-like stems. It’s very common in Victoria and can be found in popular dog-walking areas such as Dallas Road and the UVic dog field. While it starts growing in the spring, it becomes a bigger problem later in the summer when the grass dries out and the tops fall off. The tips can burrow into your pet’s paws, ears, armpit or groin area, and can be very hard to get out if not removed immediately. Use extra caution in the later summer months (July-August), and always check your dog’s paws and ears after they play in an area with speargrass. If you see your dog constantly licking his paw this might be a sign that he has speargrass stuck between his toes. (Learn more about speargrass here).
Giardia (giardia lamblia) is a one-celled parasite found in contaminated water that causes giardiasis in dogs, as well as humans and other animals. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. The parasite can survive in inactive cysts for a long time at lower temperatures and then become active again when temperatures increase or if ingested. This means the risk for giardia is higher in the spring when the air gets warmer. Help keep your dog healthy by avoiding areas with a lot of standing water during this time and by discouraging her from drinking from puddles.
Ruffinit staff member Emily brings water along on hikes and long walks so the dogs on her daily adventure hikes have a clean source of drinking water to keep hydrated. Finally, make sure to wash your hands after handling your dog to guard yourself from ingesting bacteria that might be on your dog’s fur or paws. If your dog has repeated incidents of diarrhea, take her to the vet – she may have giardiasis or another parasite and will need treatment.
When the weather warms up, people spend more time outside – which means more litter! When walking your dog in high-traffic areas watch out for small objects, like toothpicks or pop can tabs, that he might ingest. Keep an eye out for broken glass, especially on beaches, as this can be quite painful for your dog and mean big vet bills for you, if it gets in his paws. Warmer temperatures also increase the intensity of smells in the air, which means your dog might be more intrigued by that garbage bin in April that he was in January. Consider bringing extra training treats to the park to lure your pet away from noxious or nasty-looking objects.
The Western Black-legged Tick is found on Vancouver Island. This small parasite can latch onto animal skin and feast on your dog’s blood (gross!). The high season for this parasite is springtime and early summer and will be found on plants in warm, moist areas. As with speargrass, the best way to deal with ticks is to check your pet for any signs of bites or soreness after walking through wooded areas, shrubs or tall grasses. If you do find a tick on your dog, clean the area gently and remove the tick using tweezers – be sure to pull, not twist, so the tick doesn’t break. You can learn more about ticks here.
Have fun and stay safe this spring!