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Preparing pets for spring


 Photo Credit: J. Donahue

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Although it is not here just yet, spring is around the corner.  Getting pets ready for warmer weather is a great way to keep pets comfortable and well-groomed, as well as cutting down on spring cleaning.


All pet lovers have seen it at one time or another, and many dread it each year...pets shedding their winter coat in large clumps.  Many breeds of dog (all of those with double-coated fur) and many cats will start shedding their heavy winter fur once the days start getting warmer and longer.  Without some grooming, this fur will be shed in the house, creating more spring cleaning!  An easy way to reduce the fur flying is to start a weekly brushing regimen - outside if possible.  Continually removing loose fur will reduce the amount of hair to clean up in the house, and will keep the animal comfortable as temperatures start to rise.  Many pets love the scratching sensation of being brushed as well, so they appreciate the bonding time.


The wet winter weather of the South combined with the gradual warming can create an unpleasant and pervasive aroma of wet dog hair.  Spring is a great time for a bath for most all dog breeds, and even for cats.  For those who don't want a furry ring around the tub or a wet pet running through the house, pet grooming salons - whether do-it-yourself or drop-off - are available almost everywhere.  For long-haired breeds, late spring is a great time for a haircut or shave to avoid overheating this summer.

Trimming nails and claws

Trimming nails and claws is important throughout the year, but with pet's spring 'clean-up' is a natural time to clip nails and claws closer than usual.  Most pet owners who trim their pets' nails at home only trim a bit at a time, resulting in the quick growing longer.  The quick is the living portion of the claw or nail - much like the pink portion of human fingernails.  For any pet owner who has 'quicked' a pet (cut the living part of the nail), it bleeds and causes pain for the pet.  Subsequent nail trims are likely to be less and less aggressive, resulting in an overgrown quick.  Suggestions for getting a really good nail/claw trim: go to the vet - for a nominal fee, nails can be trimmed at each visit if you like; use a professional groomer or pet salon; invest in a nail grinder (although some pets don't like the noise).  You can also get pointers from the vet or groomer to give better nail trims at home.


Just like people, pets can have seasonal allergies, and spring in Atlanta can make the heartiest pet - or person - sniffle and sneeze.  Watch your pet carefully for signs of allergies: watery eyes, runny nose, coughing, or sneezing.  If these symptoms sound familiar, they should - they are the same symptoms people experience.  Talk to your vet for help treating seasonal allergies in pets.  It's also worth mentioning that pet dander can exacerbate seasonal allergies in people, so grooming the pet as suggested in this article is doubly important for pet owners with allergies.
Treating pests proactively
Warmer weather in Atlanta unfortunately signals the emergence of pests such as ticks, mosquitos, biting flies, and a resurgence of fleas.  While heartworm prevention should be continued year-round throughout the U.S. (and especially in the South), warmer weather may indicate treatment for other pests.  Many breeds of dog - hounds and larger drooling breeds in particular - have problems with biting flies and gnats.  You would notice tiny bugs flying around the dog - usually the face, ears, and hindquarters - and an increase in scratching due to bites that might not be visible.  Sprays and other proactive treatments will help make these dogs more comfortable while outside.  Talk to your vet if you notice pests bothering your pet for suggestions on the best way to manage them.
Most dogs and many cats may never need sunscreen, but some will if they are outside for extended periods of time.  Dogs with very thin coats, such as Greyhounds, Whippets, Italian Greyhounds, and other thin-skinned breeds, can get a sunburn.  Dogs of all breeds - or dubious heritage - and cats with thin fur around their muzzle or ears can get a sunburn as well.  Check your dog or cat for visible pink skin around the face and/or on the ears.  If you can see pink, it is possible that your pet could be vulnerable to sunburn.  Sunscreen for animals is widely available online and at pet supply stores.  Talk to your vet if you have questions on animals and sunburn.
Spring is a great time for people and pets alike to get out and shake off the cold.  Although it seems far away (particularly given the snow today!), spring will be here before we know it.  Take a few minutes to prepare yourself and your pet for the warm weather to come.
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