Springtime Dangers for Pets

Author: Alecia Pirulis

Pinky Sitting OutsideI discovered in a rather frightening way that my chihuahua is allergic to bee stings. It was during a camping trip to a remote location in the Blue Ridge Mountains. She likes to try and catch flying insects and she (who is so frightened by thunderstorms and the vet’s office that she shakes and cries) doesn’t care if they can harm her. Around 10 pm, her face started to swell. I panicked and made my husband take her out to try and find an animal hospital. There aren’t many 24-hour animal hospitals in the middle of the mountains, so after an hour of searching he gave up and came back. Since she seemed to be having difficulty breathing with her nose so swollen, I did the only thing I could think of – I cut a children’s Benadryl chewable tablet into little pieces and gave her a tiny section. We left the next morning and headed for home, where I called the vet. Luckily, I had done the right thing, but I wish I had been better prepared.

Spring can be a dangerous time for pets – bees, wasps, spiders, fire ants, snakes, and even some flower blooms can make them sick or can even be fatal. Bee stings may seem innocuous enough, but a dog who has been stung in the past can develop anaphylactic shock when stung again (or repeatedly). Signs of anaphylactic shock include rapid heart rate, panting, and bright red mucus membranes around the lips, gums, and tongue. Later signs of shock include cold feet and legs, pale skin, a drop in body temperature, apathy, a slow respiratory rate, and a weak pulse.

Since dogs are curious by nature, they tend to stick their noses into places they shouldn’t – places where brown recluse or black widow spiders may be hanging out. The bites from these spiders are toxic. If a dog is bitten, he will experience a sharp pain, followed by excitability, fever, and weakness. Seizures and shock are also possible, and death can occur. There is an antivenin available for these spider bites, so contact your vet immediately if you think your dog was bitten.

Snakes are also a concern. You may not be aware that your dog has been bitten by a poisonous snake, due to his fur hiding the puncture wounds, but you may notice a swollen spot that causes your dog pain. You may also see discoloration of the skin around the bite. It could take hours after being bitten before your dog shows signs of venom poisoning, but these signs include panting, drooling, extreme restlessness, vomiting, diarrhea, respiratory issues, trouble walking, and shock. If you live in an area with coral snakes, your dog may not show any signs – the bite is small and there’s little pain. You may not notice anything for several hours, then there may be muscle twitching, weakness, difficulty swallowing, pinpoint pupils, and death brought on by respiratory paralysis.

If you think your dog was bitten by a snake, keep your dog quiet since venom is spread by excitement and exercise. Don’t wash the wound, since doing so can increase the absorption of venom. Also, don’t apply ice – this can also make the venom absorb faster and can even cause tissue damage. Get your dog to the vet as quickly as possible, where he will be given antivenin and then will probably be monitored for up to 24 hours.

While bees, spiders, and snakes are obvious hazards, there are others you may not be aware of – tulips, for example. If your dog likes to tiptoe through the tulips, put a stop to it – tulips (and hyacinths) contain allergens that are highly concentrated in the bulbs, so don’t let your dog dig them up. If he chews on the plant, it can cause irritation to his mouth and esophagus. You’ll notice drooling, vomiting, and diarrhea. There’s no antidote, but rinse his mouth out and your pet should be fine. Watch for severe reactions, such as increased heart rate and respiratory changes – those symptoms will require a trip to the vet.

Other dangerous spring plants include daffodils, crocus, and lilies. Lilies that can be extremely dangerous include Tiger, Day, Easter, Asiatic, and Japanese Show lilies – these are especially toxic to cats, so if you have a cat, don’t keep these plants in your apartment.

Everywhere you look during spring, there are runny noses and sneezes – and that includes dogs! Dogs are susceptible to the same allergens that bother us – trees, weeds, grasses, insects, and even mold. Common symptoms include constant paw licking, excessive scratching, and body rubbing. You may also notice hair loss, rashes, and odor. A dog’s allergies become more severe with age, and they will show symptoms at the same time every year. Wash your dog’s paws when they come in from outside during allergy season and bathe them a little more frequently if they spend a lot of time outdoors. Your vet may also recommend an oral supplement.

After a long winter, the warm spring air is tempting – even to our pets, who may want to spend more time at the dog park or lazing on the balcony or patio. Being aware of the potential dangers and knowing what to do can make all the difference if an emergency should occur. Here’s to a safe and happy spring!