George - friendship collar x2 4-7-13Spring has definitely sprung in Texas … the change is definitely happy news for dogs, who will be spending more time sniffing and romping and rolling in the great outdoors.

While longer days and warmer days make us happy, they can bring some risks to our Brittanys. Every seasonal change can bring dangers, but Spring presents some specific risks that can be easily addressed as long as we Brittany owners know what to look for.

Dangers in the yard:

If you’re planting, remember some plants are toxic for dogs, including azalea, chrysanthemum, daffodil, rhododendron, sago palm and tulip. Consumption of these plants can lead to kidney failure in animals. The ASPCA provides a complete list of toxic plants with images.

Activity in the garden can also be detrimental to our dogs, the use of slug and snail baits, in particular. These combine an attractant, usually apple meal or some other sweet-smelling base, with an active chemical compound such as metaldehyde to poison whatever swallows the bait. Unfortunately, this can include our pets. Increased rat activity also means increased use of rat poison this time of year, one of the deadliest things your pet can ingest. 
Also, be aware of fire ants and what you use to kill them (both can be harmful to your Brittany).

Fertilizers, even organic or natural fertilizers, can harm pets. Blood and bone meal are common organic fertilizers, which makes it tasty for pets but can cause vomiting, diarrhea and pancreatic inflammation. Grass and flower fertilizers can also contain toxic chemicals that may be deadly if ingested.

Antifreeze. While the deadly chemical is most often associated with Winter, many vets see just as many antifreeze poisonings in the Spring. Whether it’s due to shade tree mechanics cleaning their radiators, unidentified leaks, ethylene glycol–based antifreeze winds up in driveways and streets where it tastes sweet to dogs and, even in tiny amounts, may cause sudden kidney failure. FYI, don’t fill the base of your portable basketball hoop with antifreeze, use water instead.

Foxtail Grasses are another not-so-fabulous right of Spring. Foxtail grass grows abundantly throughout the U.S. It, like other grains, is sometimes grown as a food crop. Foxtails also appear in the wild. You have probably even picked the hair-like grains out of your socks after a hike.

Something to be aware of if you take your Brittany out into the field. Foxtail grass, which sprouts in abundance this time of year, has microscopic barbules along their surface. Once they catch on animals’ fur, they can become lodged in their skin (most often in the webbing between the toes), ear canal, or nose. Foxtails cause extreme discomfort and often lead to bleeding, infection, and, in the case of ear canal migration, ruptured ear drums. If swallowed, foxtails can lodge in the throat, causing swelling and infection. If accidentally inhaled, they can cause serious damage and infection in the airways or lungs.

Get outdoors and enjoy the season, just remain aware of your Brittany’s surroundings. Changes in the environment can be stimulating to them, but new smells in the yard or garden can also be harmful. Simply take extra precautions: be sure all chemicals are completely out of your pets’ reach, and remove foxtails as soon as you see them on your Brittany.

If your dog spent a good chunk of the Winter crashed on the coach, eating a few too many sweet potato chews, you also want to be gradual about bounding into a Spring exercise regime. “Often, pets get overly excited to go outside and strain themselves,” says Heidi Ganahl, CEO and founder of Camp Bow Wow. “Make sure you monitor your pet and start slow before engaging in strenuous physical activity.” I don’t think we have that problem with Brittanys since they are active year around. ☺

Finally, another ritual of the season, spring cleaning poses risks for our Brittanys. It’s important to think smart about your cleaning. Many cleaning products are irritating or even toxic for dogs. Invest in environmentally safe and eco-friendly products.