Both humans and canines welcome the warmer weather that is just around the corner. Dogs have earthy ways to celebrate the arrival of Spring—they love to roll in the mud or the stinkiest stuff imaginable, and while warmer weather makes us all feel good, it brings increased risk of parasites to your pet, making it necessary to take steps to prevent and treat these parasites. An important part of your pet’s health care is protection from heartworm disease, a life-threatening illness that is spread by a mosquito bites. Spring brings a resurgence of these disease carrying insects, and it is much safer and easier to keep your animals on preventive medication than it is to treat the disease. A spring visit to your veterinarian should include a general wellness check, and testing for heartworm and intestinal parasites such as tapeworms, roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms, as well as protozoal parasites such as giardia, all of which can rob your dog of nutrition and can cause serious health problems. A little preventive care goes a long way toward keeping your pets healthy.

Another common symbol of spring is rabbits. Every year huge numbers of adorable baby rabbits, chicks, and ducklings go into new homes for Easter. They are already being showcased in pet stores and farm stores around the area. Most of these pets will be gifts for children– impulse purchases made with little thought given to the needs of the animals. No pet purchase is more likely to end tragically than one that’s based on nothing more than cuteness. Many of the chicks and ducklings die within a short time, killed by neglect, improper care or unintentional rough handling by children. Rabbits can make wonderful pets IF people are prepared to care for them properly, but, contrary to what is commonly believed, rabbits are not snuggly, cuddly animals, and are not well suited to life as a child’s pet. Like other pets bought on impulse, many rabbits end up turned loose or dumped as the novelty wears off. If you honestly cannot see beyond the cries of delight on the day your child and baby bunny meet, DO NOT take home a living creature. Buy a stuffed animal, one that can take abuse and neglect with no problem more serious than an occasional ripped seam or lost ear. In the short run, passing up a pet that will not hold your family’s interest is important to the animal you could have purchased. In the long run, teaching your child that animals are not to be bought on a whim and discarded just as lightly is important to the welfare of all animals, and making sure children grow up learning to care about other living things is important to the welfare of us all.

Most of us have packed on a few extra pounds during the winter, and it is likely that your dog has too. Canine-fitness trainer Gail Miller offers these tests to determine if your dog needs to lose weight:

  • Place your hands on your dog’s sides to feel his rib cage. If you have trouble finding ribs, then it is probably time to start exercising more and eating less.
  • Look at your dog from overhead. A dog at a healthy weight should have clear waist indentation between the rib cage and the hip bones.
  • A third test is to watch your dog walk away from you. Excess pounds will cause her to shift her weight back and forth, causing her skin to appear to roll from side to side.

Both human and canine bodies need exercise, and if you have been couch potatoes for several months, spring is the perfect time to start an exercise program with your dogs. Start slowly , and gradually increase your physical fitness. Grab the leash and head out to enjoy the warmer weather with your favorite pooch. HAPPY SPRING!