Unless you live in a very mild or tropical zone, making the transition from spring to summer requires some adjustments for dogs and owners alike. Just as winter ice doesn’t become summer grass overnight, changeable conditions require flexibility. Here are some things to take into consideration now that spring has sprung:
Spring Outer Wear: If your dog wears a coat in winter, unless the heat transition is very dramatic, you may want him to wear a lighter sweater or doggy tee walking in the chilly sun. Coat-donning dogs are accustomed to having their body temperatures managed, and they get chilly easily.
Paw Care: Conscious spring paw care is essential. Roadside banks of icy snow have been repeatedly inundated with salt and other snow melting chemicals. The puddles from these glaciers are toxic and harsh for the pads.
Remember to wash your dog’s feet with soap after every walk and beware of thirsty dogs who want to lap up snow melt water. As the sun warms the roads, dogs will again get thirsty on walks, so carry a water bottle and travel bowl to prevent sipping roadside sludge.
Shedding: Many dogs shed in spring. Shedding is a natural transition, but the dry, winter coat can cause mats and tangles as it falls out, especially if your dog wears a coat or a sweater outside.
Always remember to take your dog’s warm clothes off inside after every walk. Gentle, regular brushing in spring helps restore oils to the new coat, stimulates the skin and prevents the dreaded dreads of an unkempt coat. Your vet may approve canine Omega 3 oil capsules to assist this transitional period for the coat.
Exercise: Warmer weather means we all feel friskier. It is normal for dogs to store fat in winter, but a heavier dog needs to begin spring exercise gently. Just as you may want to ease back into an outdoor exercise routine, your companion dog also needs to take it slowly at first. Increase walks and runs in the park steadily, but gradually.
Allergies: Dogs get springtime allergies too. As is the case for humans, dogs can become allergic over time, so do not be surprised if your dog’s reactions to springtime allergens change from puppy to adult. Pollen from the first flowering trees, dandelions and tulips, dust, mold and even insects can cause allergic reactions.
Symptoms include itching, coughing, sneezing, flaky skin or an oily-feeling coat. Never use human allergy medicines for dogs on your own initiative. Canine allergy medicines are effective; your vet can prescribe the safest dose.
Toxic Plants and Mulch: Spring bulb plants pushing out of the ground often attract dogs. It’s not that dogs just want to ruin the landscaping. Squirrels and rodents are also attracted to spring bulbs and an inquisitive dog might be hot on the trail.
But beware. Many spring bulbs fall into the allium family, and onions (allium) are toxic to dogs. Furthermore, cocoa mulch, often used as bedding mulch for park side flower beds, is very attractive to, but highly toxic to dogs. Keep your dog out of the flower beds and nobody will get hurt.
Lawn Chemicals: In the spring, your dog will be able finally to run on grass, not frozen snow or dead thatch. Please pay attention to where you let your dog run. Spring lawn care often combines herbicide and pesticide treatments to kill insect larva, ticks, fleas, “critters,” and seed-sprouting weeds.
Nitrogen-based fertilizers, blood meal, milorganite, rose boosters and Japanese beetle inhibitors, grub killers, herbicides, insecticides (especially those with organophosphates), rodenticides, acid fertilizer for holly and azalea and slug and snail baits do not belong on dogs’ paws. While these chemical washes might produce a green lawn, they also produce a toxic lawn for dogs. So, walk your dog in the safe scrubby grass in spring and keep an eye out for the “pesticide treated” signs in the formal lawns. Pesticides, herbicides and dogs don’t go together.
By thinking ahead, dog owners can head off problems and help their dogs get the most out of getting out and about in spring.
About the Author: Helen Fazio and her dog Raja blog on pet travel and related topics at www.traveldogbooks.com. In their first book, “The Journey of the Shih Tzu,” Raja tells the wolf to woof story of the development of this amazing breed. They are working on forthcoming titles.