Springtime frolics

bring hazards for fur babies

Spring brings warmer days and nature bursting forth in all its flowering glory, but these delights mean pet owners need to be on higher alert for allergy and poisoning risks to their beloved pooches and moggies.

That irritating itch

Annual pet parent research by pet insurance provider PD Insurance shows 5% of pets are taken to the vet because of allergies and a further 22% are treated for skin conditions, many of which are related to allergies.

New Zealand is currently experiencing a severe shortage of veterinary staff and Michelle Le Long, chief operating officer of PD Insurance, advises booking early if your fur baby shows signs of allergy distress.

“Symptoms to look out for are eye and ear redness and discharge, and excessive scratching, head shaking, sneezing, licking, chewing, coughing and gagging,” she advises. “A springtime explosion of pollen can affect pets in much the same way as us humans, affecting eyes, noses and skin.”

Le Long also notes that COVID-19 lockdowns can make vet appointments more challenging because at Alert Level 4 and 3, although veterinary services can operate as permitted business services, pet parents cannot enter the premises.

Plants that kill!

Veterinarian Dr Joanne Lonergan, of PD Insurance animal shelter partner HUHA, recommends dog owners in particular show caution with plants and other tempting things that dogs love to get their noses into, like compost and roadkill.

“Dogs like Labradors are more likely to eat things they shouldn’t, whereas cats tend not to. However, you still need to watch cats because they don’t show the same level of pain or distress as dogs,” she says.

 Aside from spring pollen irritations, certain plants can be extremely toxic, says Lonergan: “Lilies are toxic to cats – not just the flowers but the entire plant, and grapes. Raisins are extremely toxic to dogs – even one can prove fatal. And as spring turns to summer, dog owners should be vigilant for Karaka tree berries, which can be fatal if eaten by dogs.”

Signs of Karaka berry poisoning in dogs include weakness, vomiting, confusion and convulsions. Symptoms are not immediate, so if pooch isn’t yet showing signs of poisoning but you think they may have ingested berries, seek veterinary treatment immediately.

Watch the water

If walking dogs near ponds or waterways, pup parents should be on the lookout for Cyanobacteria, known as toxic algae.

Dogs love the musty smell and are drawn to licking or drinking it, which can cause extreme sickness and sometimes death. Symptoms usually occur within 30 minutes and include panting, lethargy, muscle tremors, twitching and convulsions. If symptoms appear contact a vet immediately, and keep your dog on a leash if you are in doubt about waterways.

Those pesky summer pests

Fleas and worms multiply in abundance in warmer weather, and some cats experience a distressing allergy to flea saliva, known as flea-allergic dermatitis (FAD).

Kitties with FAD often develop a bumpy rash around their head, neck, tummy and back legs that causes intense itching. Sufferers often excessively scratch, lick and bite their skin, which can lead to red, raw, infected patches.

Flea prevention measures will usually keep FAD at bay, and flare-ups can be treated by a vet with steroids and/or antibiotics. For more information on the ins and outs of fleas, prevention and treatment visit pdnz1.wpengine.com/blogs/flea-treatment-in-nz-and-ticks-too/.

Home remedies

If you’re having trouble accessing a vet for your pet’s spring allergies due to vet shortages or COVID-19 lockdowns, you can undertake treatments at home to soothe certain conditions until your fur baby can be seen by a professional. These include bathing with pet-appropriate shampoo, topical treatments, eye drops, ear cleaning, a good quality diet and supplements.

Year-round vigilance

Lonergan notes there are toxins dog owners need to be aware of all year, including slug bait, rat bait, chocolate, human pharmaceuticals, cannabis and the artificial sweetener Xylitol.

“Hopefully your dog won’t ever encounter any of these hazards,” she says, “but if they do, treatment can be expensive and that’s why it’s so worthwhile to have pet insurance.”


Media contact 

Leandri Smith – The Mail Room
027 365 9003 | [email protected]