After a siege of nasty weather, spring has arrived…at least that’s what the calendar says. Buds on the trees are starting to open, and little tufts of new green are appearing from the muddy soil. As the dreary days of winter give way to warmer temperatures, we are hopeful that spring has finally sprung! We feel the urge to get up and get moving , and lose a few of those pounds we have packed on during winter, and our dogs that have been less active all winter need to get back in shape too. Exercise is great, but ease into getting everyone back in shape, by starting with walks that don’t leave your dog (or you) out of breath or limping with sore muscles. Gradually increase the length and intensity of the exercise as both of you are able to handle more. Make sure that you pay attention to the weather. Dogs do not sweat, so a day that is warm to humans may actually be dangerously hot to an overactive dog, and dogs may be too excited to slow down, so you must make the decisions to take needed breaks.

Companion animals, restless from being cooped up, often become escape artists and climb or dig their way out of their safe yards to find themselves in new territory with no clue about finding their way home, so it is important to have a current I.D. tag on your dog. We recommend also micro-chipping your dog. Proper identification can help recover a lost pup.

Hopefully your dog has been altered. The alarming statistics of animal overpopulation and unwanted offspring should convince you to spay or neuter, but it is also important to do for the health and safety of your pet.

The minute the weather warms up, biting insects become more active. Mosquitoes are of special concern, because their bites can cause much more than itchy bumps; they can actually threaten your pet’s life. A bite can transmit a very serious, infectious illness, heartworm disease. Prevention of heartworm is much easier than treatment, and all dogs should be routinely tested each spring, and dogs with a negative heartworm test should be placed on a preventative medication, because no matter what precautions you take, it is impossible to totally eliminate the chances of becoming a mosquito’s lunch –I had a mosquito land on my arm earlier this week, and I was indoors!

Spring is also the time of year when fleas, ticks, and other parasites start to make their presence known. Don’t wait until you see a flea to begin treatment! If you see one flea, you can be sure there is an infestation. Fleas can cause excessive scratching, hair loss, scabs, hot spots, and tapeworms, as well as anemia from blood loss. Ticks can cause similar effects and lead to complications from tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain fever. There are many safe, effective flea-tick treatments available, and it is so much easier to prevent the problem than to have to deal with the nasty little critters. We strongly advise against buying over the counter products: some are ineffective, and many are downright toxic. Check with your vet as to the best product to use. At the same time, have your dog screened for intestinal parasites including worms, such as tapeworms, hookworms, roundworms, and whipworms, and protozoal parasites such as giardia. These parasites can create serious problems, and testing is done by a fecal check.

Shedding usually becomes more prevalent in the spring, so grooming is important. Daily brushing is encouraged, and this activity provides you the opportunity to do a body check to make sure there are no lumps or bumps or foreign objects embedded in the fur or foot pads. And remember: no outfit is complete without a few dog hairs.

Doug Larson assures us that Spring is when you smell like dirt, and feel like whistling even with a shoe full of slush, and your dog has enjoyed a good roll in the mud.