We can finally say it – spring has sprung. The snow has melted, leaves are popping, and the world around us is coming to life.

It’s great to spend time outdoors now. Fido and Fluffy may be yearning to join you. Before opening the door wide, though, ask yourself if you have prepared your pet for spring.

Here are a few suggestions for Fido’s and Fluffy’s spring tune-up.

  • Get into shape. Months of inactivity have made Fido more prone to injury. Start with controlled exercise such as leash walks, and work your way up to more strenuous exercise. A vigorous game of fetch before Fido’s body is ready will make him susceptible to injuries such as muscle strains and sprains. Even minor tune-ups such as nail trims will decrease the risk of injury to toes.
  • Identification is important. If Fido or Fluffy gets lost, they cannot ask for directions or tell people where they live. Protect your pet with proper identification. Collars with ID tags are helpful, unless the collar or tag falls off. Microchips are permanent identification, and are inserted under the skin. Each chip contains a unique number that helps reunite you with your pet. These microchips really do work.
  • Shed the winter coat. Everyone loves saying goodbye to winter clothes in April. Fido and Fluffy are no exception, but they need your help to do this. Call your favorite groomer and treat Fido or Fluffy to a pet spa. Or invest in a good brush and watch your pet transform into a summer beauty at home. Doing this task outside will help minimize clean-up. While you’re at it, look for lumps, bumps, or rashes. Any new or changing lesion should be checked by your veterinarian.
  • Parasite prevention. Whether we like it or not, we share our yards and neighborhoods with pesky creatures. Ticks, fleas, mosquitoes, and gut worms are out there. They cause illness in pets, such as flea infestations, Lyme disease, heartworm disease, tapeworms, and diarrhea. Keeping your yard clean and scooping poop can go a long way towards preventing gastrointestinal parasites. These organisms can re-infect Fido and Fluffy, and cause disease in people, too. Don’t let your pet or family be a tasty meal for parasites. Protect Fido and Fluffy by keeping the yard clean and providing monthly parasite prevention.
  • Vaccines. The old adage, “A stitch in time saves nine” is true when it comes to vaccines. These inexpensive immunostimulants save lives and halt horrible disease. Before turning your pets loose to romp the great outdoors, make sure their vaccines are up-to-date. In particular, check their rabies and distemper status, with extra consideration given to dogs for Lyme disease, and to cats for leukemia. To help protect you and your family from the deadly rabies virus, the rabies vaccine is mandated by state law. Without vaccination, your pet can be the vector that brings wildlife rabies into your home. Scary but true.
  • Lar par. If you’ve noticed that your older dog’s panting and breathing is raspier than last year, he may be developing laryngeal paralysis. This is most common in older retrievers. It occurs when the laryngeal saccules (“voicebox membranes”) malfunction in the throat. When Fido pants, these abnormal saccules can swell and suffocate your dog. The risk of a crisis is greatest during warm weather when Fido is panting. Surgery is preventive, so have your vet check Fido if you’re concerned.
  • Road trauma. Unfortunately, hit-by-car accidents are common in the spring. Pets are happy to run outside, and some owners forget the risks. Be prepared and don’t let this happen to your pet. Fido will thank you for keeping him confined, on a leash, or in a yard with a physical or invisible fence. Reflective gear – both for yourself and for Fido – can literally be a lifesaver during walks. Fluffy can be more challenging. Some cats can be trained to walk with a harness or leash. Others are content having access to windows with bird feeders outside, or screened porches with views of chipmunks and birds.
  • Swimming pools. Swimming can be fun for you and Fido. Just make sure your dog knows how to get out of the pool. Swimming dogs also need to build endurance or they risk drowning. Some dogs have also been known to jump in when their owners are prepping the pool, fetching and swallowing the pool tab. These cleaning tablets are toxic and can severely irritate the mouth, throat, and stomach.
  • Heat stroke. Pets die of heat stroke every year. Make sure yours have access to shade and water. Also, never leave your pet in a vehicle without air conditioning. Temperatures can climb and become deadly even during a quick errand.
With a little planning and prep, your pet can look forward to the dog days of summer with you.