Spring has sprung, and with the change of season, our thoughts inevitably turn to Easter celebrations, spring cleaning and much-needed home improvement projects. But the new balmy weather can prove not-so-sunny for curious pets—or their unwitting parents. Before you embark on seasonal chores or outdoor revelry, take inventory of potential springtime hazards for your delicate, furry friend. To help you out, our ASPCA experts have come up with a few seasonal tips that will help prevent mishaps or misfortunes.
Easter Treats and Decorations Keep Easter lilies and candy bunnies in check—chocolate goodies are toxic to cats, dogs and ferrets, and lilies can be fatal if ingested by our feline friends. While bunnies, chicks and other festive animals are adorable, resist the urge to buy—these cute babies grow up fast and often require specialized care!
Buckle Up! Dogs love good weather, too! But allowing them to ride in the beds of pick-up trucks or stick their heads out of car windows is downright dangerous. Abrupt stops or turns can cause major injury, or worse! Pets in cars should always be secured in a crate or wearing a seatbelt harness designed especially for them.
Home Improvement 101 Products such as paints, mineral spirits and solvents can be toxic to your pets and cause severe irritation or chemical burns. Carefully read all labels to see if the product is safe to use around your furry friends. It may be wise to confine your dog or cat to a designated pet-friendly room during home improvement projects.
Ah-Ah-Achoo! Like their sneezy human counterparts, pets can be allergic to dust, plants and pollens. Allergic reactions in dogs and cats can cause minor sniffling as well as life-threatening anaphylactic shock. If your pet suffers from a springtime allergy, please visit your veterinarian.
Moving to a new home may be one of the most stressful life events you’ll ever have to tackle. But in the chaos of cardboard boxes, packing tape and moving trucks, you might not realize how stressed your pets feel, too. We chatted with ASPCA Director of Anti-Cruelty Behavior Research Dr. Katherine Miller about ways to make the transition as safe and easy as possible for your furry friends.
Choosing a new ‘hood, house or apartment
Before you pick out your dream home, make sure your pet will love it just as much as you do. When it comes to square footage needs, cats and dogs differ. Older dogs, puppies and dogs with house training issues will need to go outside often, which might be difficult in an apartment building with lots of stairs or a house without a yard.
Packing up your stuff
Cats aren’t big fans of change. You can help your cats (and skittish dogs) adjust to the moving process by bringing in moving boxes early, and by keeping your furry friends in a familiar room you plan to pack up last. On moving day, keep your pets in a quiet room or at a friend’s house.
Planning your road trip
Many pets haven’t spent much time in crates or cars. In the weeks or months leading up to the big trip, you can prepare your pets by gradually acclimating them to their crates. First, place your pets’ food inside an open crate, and eventually have your pets eat meals in the crate with the door shut.
Settling into your new digs
When you arrive at your new home, it will be tempting to set your dog or cat loose to explore. But a new and unfamiliar space can be overwhelming to your pets. Start by allowing them to adjust to one room—their “home base”—which should include their favorite toys, treats, water and food bowls, and litter box for cats.
Nearly everywhere in America, this summer is a scorcher, and we know that as a responsible pet parent, you want to do everything you can to keep your best four-legged friends cool. So when you look at your Pomeranian, Golden Retriever or long-haired cat wearing a thick, fluffy coat, you might feel tempted to break out your grooming tools and give him a serious hair cut.
But hold those clippers! While you or I would hate to sport a fur coat in 100-degree weather, your pets’ fur coats are actually providing them with heat relief.
“A dog’s coat is kind of like insulation for your house,” explains Dr. Louise Murray, Vice President of the ASPCA Animal Hospital. “Insulation stops your home from getting too cold in winter, but it also keeps it from overheating in summer—and your dog’s coat does the same thing.”
Dogs’ coats have several layers, and these layers are essential to your dog’s comfort in the heat. Robbing your dog of this natural cooling system can lead to discomfort and overheating. And keeping your dog cool isn’t the only reason to leave his coat intact, Dr. Murray warns. Your dog’s coat prevents your pup from getting sunburn and helps protect her from skin cancer.
So what can you do? “It’s OK to trim your long-haired dog’s long hair, such as any hair that hangs down on his legs,” Dr. Murray says. Just never attempt to clip mats off your pet’s coat with scissors, Dr. Murray adds. And if you’ve got a long-haired kitty, leave her coat intact. Instead, brush her a little more frequently during the hot summer months.
To protect your pet from sunburn and skin cancer, save longer walks for evenings, and consider applying pet-specific sun block to thinly covered areas like the bridge of your dog’s nose, the tips of his ears and his belly, Dr. Murray suggests, noting that pets with thin coats, as well as those with white or light-colored coats, are especially at risk for sun damage.
Of course, pet parents should remember to keep pets inside with plenty of water during hot days—hydration is key! For more important information on summer pet care, visit our Hot-Weather Tips.
Each year, thousands of beloved companions succumb to heatstroke and suffocation when left in parked cars. It happens most often when people make quick stops—the dry cleaners, the bank or the local deli. Folks, we need to be clear on this: It takes only minutes for your pet to face death—and it doesn’t have to be that hot out. On a 78-degree day, the temperature inside a parked car can reach 160 degrees. Even with the windows cracked.
You can help save pets from dying in hot cars. Simply take the following actions:
Educate people. Hang this printable flyer [PDF] up in your local grocery store, veterinary hospital, animal shelter and other local businesses.
If you see something, say something. If you see a dog alone in a vehicle, immediately call animal control or 911. Local law officials have the ability to enter vehicle and rescue the pet. Do not leave until help has arrived.
Try to find the car’s owner. If you are out and you see a dog locked in a car, tell the nearby store manager immediately. Don't be shy.
And please, no matter how much your dog loves to go along when you run errands, don't take a chance. Leave her home where she is safe.
Whether it’s a joyride or a long haul, taking your dogs for a drive can be fun for everyone involved—but it’s important always to buckle up your pet. In the U.S. alone, an estimated 30,000 car accidents are caused annually by unrestrained pets. In a recent survey of dog parents by the American Automobile Association (AAA), 59% of respondents admitted to participating in at least one distracting behavior while driving with a dog. More than half pet their dog while driving, and 21% let their dog to sit in their laps.
Any behavior that takes a driver’s eyes off the road increases the risk of a crash, and stopping short can send an unrestrained dog flying, causing severe injury to pet and passengers. The ASPCA urges motoring pet parents to keep their pets safe and secure in the back seat in a well-ventilated crate, carrier, or harness. If you choose a crate or carrier, make sure it’s large enough for your pet to stand, sit, lie down and turn around in.
Here are some more tips to keep your end-of-summer road trips festive and injury-free:
Always secure your pet’s crate so it won’t slide or shift in the event of a quick stop.
Resist the urge to feed your furry friend in a moving vehicle—even if it’s during a long ride.
Avoid letting your pet ride with his head outside the car window. He could be injured by flying objects!
Bring along a favorite toy or pillow to give your pet a sense of familiarity and comfort.