Springtime Hazards for Dogs

Springtime Hazards for Dogs

8 March 2024

During April’s National Pet Month, pet owners up and down the country are celebrating their four-legged friends. What’s more, with spring in full swing we all want to head out with our dogs, borrowed or owned, and make most of the light days.

However a warning from the UK’s leading out-of-hours pet emergency service, Vets Now, will see a 33% surge in calls as worried pet owners battle with the unexpected dangers of Spring. So to help our community they have drawn up a list of some of the main hazards to look out for dogs.

The Top 10 hazards for dogs over springtime

1. Chocolate

Look out for those leftover Easter eggs and chocolate treats around springtime. Chocolate contains a chemical called theobromine (a bit like caffeine) that’s poisonous to dogs. The amount of theobromine differs depending on the type of chocolate, with dark chocolate and baking chocolate containing the most.

2. Raisins

Don’t forget that goodies such as hot cross buns contain raisins. Grapes, raisins, currants and sultanas can cause kidney failure in dogs. Experts agree that there is no “safe” dose of grapes and raisins.

3. Spring flowers

Dogs love spending time in the garden so watch out for poisonous plants. Toxic species common at this time of year include lilies, daffodils and azaleas. Daffodils can be toxic, particularly the bulbs. But the flower heads can also cause vomiting, diarrhoea and lethargy. In severe cases this may result in dehydration, tremors and convulsions. These signs can be seen from 15 minutes to one day following ingestion.

All parts of the bluebell are poisonous to dogs. Ingestion can cause vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal discomfort and there is also a risk of heart beat irregularity (arrhythmia) if a significant quantity is ingested.

Other spring flowers, such as crocuses and tulips, are considered to be less toxic but seek veterinary advice if you are worried your pet has eaten them.

Doggy member Wanchan, the Bichon Frise, lying on the sofa next to a table with a vase of tulips
Doggy member Wanchan, the Bichon Frise

4. Slug and snail pellets (metaldehyde)

Be careful if you need to use any slug and snail pellets, pesticides or other chemicals. The toxic compound in slug and snail pellets is called metaldehyde. Bear in mind that not all products contain this. However, eating small amounts can cause significant poisoning. Signs will be seen within an hour of ingestion and include incoordination, muscle spasms, twitching, tremors, seizures and even death if left untreated. Your dog will need urgent veterinary treatment if affected. Avoid using cocoa shell mulch as well, as it contains the same toxic ingredient as chocolate.

5. Ivy

Dogs who eat ivy (Hedera helix) commonly develop drooling, vomiting or diarrhoea. In the most severe cases you may also see blood in the vomit or faeces. Contact with ivy can cause skin reactions, conjunctivitis, itchiness, and skin rashes. Note that poison Ivy (Rhus radicans) is a different plant and only grows in Asia and North America.

6. Grass blades

This is another surprisingly big cause of pet emergencies. Although not exclusively, it tends to be cats who have a penchant for eating long grass or decorative grasses run the risk of getting the blades stuck in their nose and throat. This can cause breathing problems, coughing, sneezing, loss of appetite and nasal discharge.

Doggy member Archie, the Cocker Spaniel, sitting happily in the long grass, with his tongue flopped out
Doggy member Archie, the Cocker Spaniel

7. Adder bites

The common European adder (Vipera berus) is the only venomous snake native to the UK. Adults are around 50-60cm long and are characterised by having a black or brown zigzag pattern along their back and a V-shaped marking on the back of their head. They are commonly found on dry, sandy heaths, sand dunes, rocky hillsides, moorland and woodland edges.

They generally only bite when provoked, and bites rarely occur during the winter when the snake is hibernating. Bites are most frequent in the spring when adders are still sluggish after coming out of hibernation. Seek veterinary attention quickly if you suspect your dog has been bitten by an adder.

8. Barbecues

If you are having a springtime barbeque, make sure your dog is kept at a safe distance. Kebab skewers, alcohol and bones can be particularly dangerous.

9. Allergies

Just like people, cats and dogs can develop allergies to plants, pollens, grasses, and many other substances in springtime. Allergies in pets normally appear as itchy skin and ear problems, accompanied by hair loss or inflamed skin. Some pets will even change their behaviour due to irritation. Some will suffer respiratory signs or runny eyes.

From spring to early summer are when owners are likely to be stocking up on anti-histamine medication themselves. These may be toxic to dogs and signs of ingestion include vomiting, lethargy, incoordination, wobbliness and tremors. These typically develop within four to seven hours. Some dogs may also become hyper-excitable. If large amounts of anti-histamine have been eaten, convulsions, respiratory depression and coma may occur.

10. Insect stings

Dogs often like to chase and play with wasps and bees and can be stung. Most of these cases are not emergencies. With a bee sting, check and remove the sting if it’s still in place, then bathe the area in bicarbonate of soda (one teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda to 300ml warm water). With wasp stings bathe the area with malt vinegar or lemon juice.

If your dog is stung in or near the mouth or neck then you may need to seek veterinary help. Pets, like humans, can be allergic or become allergic to stings. Signs include swellings, distress and breathing difficulties.

If you’re worried your dog is sick or injured, contact your vet as soon as possible, or find your nearest Vets Now pet emergency clinic or Vets Now 24/7 hospital.

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