How prepared are you for the potential spring health hazards facing your pup? Increase your awareness with our advice for the new season.

Glorious Spring! New life bursts forth right before your eyes. But it’s not all bunny babies and Robin’s eggs out there. Just ask your vet. Spring’s a season of horny rattlesnakes, tireless ticks and other little buggers that threaten the health of your pet. So before Spring Fever sets in, get set to protect your pooch. Dr. Sandy Block of the Bay Area’s Bollinger Canyon Animal Hospital points out the main critter culprits of the season.

Stick it to the Tick

Those blood-sucking buggers won’t win this season. They can hide, but you’ll find them. Your dog’s ready with 24-hour tick surveillance. Not only does he have topical treatment onboard to prevent a bite, but you’re ready to check his fur routinely when he’s been in tall grass or brush. And you’re ready to deploy your “tick puller” doodad just in case. Note: It’s never safe to remove a tick with a match, gasoline, oil or anything other than a handy tick remover available at pet stores. If you try to pull or twist a tick out, its little head may get stuck in your dog’s skin and cause an infection. Dr. Block adds “The best method of tick removal is prevention. We recommend Frontline Plus flea and tick control. This spot on topical treatment is applied directly to the skin between the shoulders in several spots. This product is safe and kills adult fleas, flea eggs and larvae as well as ticks. It is applied monthly and does not wash off.”

Flea! Be Gone

In sofa cushions, in your carpet, in your bed, the flea knows no boundaries. Bite back this season with oral flea medication for dogs. If your pet does not go to tick areas and you do not need consistent tick control, Dr. Block recommends Sentinel, an monthly oral flea preventative. It prevents heartworms, roundworms, and whipworms and is a flea “birth control” of sorts. Dr. Block says it’s “very safe and effective” and “because it is given orally, there is no topical insecticide that you and your pet are exposed to.” And on days when your pup visits the groomer, doggie day care, training classes or boarding care, Dr. Block recommends adding a Capstar tablet to knock out adult fleas within 30 minutes for a full 24 hours. This way no flea hitchhikers survive the trip on your dog to your house. You’ve got enough little troublemakers living there already.

Worm Their Way Out

Silent but deadly – it’s not what think. We’re talking about something even more foul that strikes dogs when you least expect it. Heartworm, and it’s no laughing matter. This slow progressing disease results from a single mosquito bite and can take several years to cause the damage that shows symptoms. Dr. Block explains “Once symptoms are present the worms can be killed but the damage that they have caused cannot be repaired. Untreated animals will die and will be a reservoir of the disease until they do.” Fortunately the disease is easy to prevent. To protect your pet, your vet runs a simple blood test to confirm a negative result. Then, your dog should receive a monthly oral chewable medication all year long to prevent against heartworms, roundworms, hookworms and whipworms. Dr. Block warns “your pet never needs to leave the house to contract this disease as mosquitoes can get in.” For more information on preventing this awful disease and its prevalence in your area, talk to your vet.

Rattle & Roll (to the vet)

If you haven’t had the “Birds and the Bees” talk with your dog, now’s a good time. Because love is in the air, especially if you’re a rattlesnake. Dr. Block explains, “April is the month the rattlesnakes come out of hibernation and look for a mate. They are more easily agitated and will strike more quickly this time of the year.” For happy dogs bounding in the tall grass and brush or sunbathing on the rocks, this is not good news. Rattlesnake bites are swift and deadly if not treated immediately. In fact, the sooner a dog receives the anti-venom, the less severe the reaction will be. And when it comes to snakes, don’t kid yourself, size matters. Dr. Block explains, “The smaller the snake the more serious the bite as they give all of their venom in the bite where an older, larger snake only gives a small amount or even a “dry” bite as a warning.” If your community shares the good company of rattlesnakes, talk to your vet about a vaccine to minimize the effects of a potential bite. But remember, even vaccinated dogs need emergency attention if bitten.

The Scoop: 

Thank you to Dr. Sandy Block of Bollinger Canyon Animal Hospital for these useful tips. Bollinger Canyon Animal Hospital is located in San Ramon, CA.

Originally published May 2009; reviewed and updated April 2016.