By JeanneBennett

Spring has finally arrived! If you think you are excited to say goodbye to the days of being cooped up inside or having to worry about getting frostbite every time we go out,  our pets are likely even more excited to, once again, stretch their legs and explore the outdoors.

Unfortunately with warmer weather comes new considerations we have to keep in mind before we open our doors and let our pets out.

Heartworms

While you should administer heartworm prevention medication year-round, it’s especially vital to give your pet a preventive when the weather gets warmer. Heartworm, a parasitic worm that lives in the heart and pulmonary arteries of an infected animal, spreads through mosquitoes. These mosquitoes love standing water and even if you are careful not to leave any standing water on your property, you still have to worry about what is going on behind your neighbor’s fence.

Preventing heartworm disease in dogs is much easier and cheaper than treating it; a process that usually takes a series of injections, hospitalization and exercise restriction. Some cats can fight off the disease themselves, but no approved treatments exist in the U.S. for feline heartworm.

Dog or cat heartworm preventives come in the form of a monthly chewable. However, you’ll need to obtain a prescription from your veterinarian, who may require a heartworm test before supplying the medication.

Fleas

Fleas — parasites that feed on blood — can jump up to two feet in the air, which makes your four-legged friend’s fur their personal breeding ground.

Flea bites itch, which can lead to excessive scratching, licking and biting at the skin. In addition to skin irritation, fleas can cause hair loss and tapeworms in both cats and canines. Dogs with particularly bad reactions to fleas may get “hot spots,” or red, itchy spots on the skin that often appear moist and oozing.

Even if your feline friend never takes a single step outdoors, you should still administer flea preventives since humans easily track fleas in from outdoors.

Flea preventives may be administered in pill form or through a topical treatment. Some brands offer both flea and heartworm prevention.

Ticks

Ticks can transmit Lyme disease and other illness to dogs. Cats can also contract sicknesses similar to Lyme disease. If you live in an area with high tick infestations, such as in southern states or heavily wooded areas of the Northeast, be sure to treat your pet.

To prevent ticks, apply a topical treatment ­— most flea preventives also kill ticks ­— or fit them with a tick collar.

Alleviate allergies

Airborne allergens cause problems in the spring. If your pet exhibits signs of allergies — sneezing, coughing, increased scratching, vomiting, runny eyes — set up an appointment with your vet. They can help you create the best course of treatment to alleviate the symptoms.

Some treatments include allergy shots and medication, but only under direction from your veterinarian.

Grooming

Cats and dogs need to be brushed and bathed, especially in warmer weather. Brush all pets at least once a week, but comb daily if your companion’s coat is prone to tangles.

Baths rid fur coats of airborne allergens that could make your pets’ allergies worse, so give them a bath every few weeks. Don’t bathe them too frequently, though, because it can irritate their skin.

Shaving your long-haired pet could actually be doing more harm than good. We have all heard how fur acts as an animal’s insulation, and keeps them from getting too cold in the winter and from getting too hot in the summer. But not all situations are the same. What may work for your neighbor may not necessarily work for you. Talk to your veterinarian or groomer about what would be the best course of action to take for your pet.

Treat your yard

When it gets warm outside your pets aren’t the only little critters who get excited about being in your yard. Parasites like fleas and ticks (just to name the more common ones) are setting up camp in your yard just waiting for your pet to come out and play. Even if you use a topical it wouldn’t hurt to keep parasites such as ticks and fleas as far away from your pet and family as you can. A good exterminator can come up with a plan to keep your bugs away from your pets, family and home.

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