Laura Ward
Pet Nutritionist
rewardingpetnutrition.com  info@rewardingpetnutrition.com

Spring is well and truly on its way, and so let’s explore how seasonal changes and the arrival of spring impact our dogs and their wellbeing.

Fleas & Ticks

Fleas are a parasite which cause irritation and discomfort to dogs. Their biting and the usual onset of intense itching means that fleas can cause distress in dogs. In central Europe our climate means that the warm period of spring and summer provide the best conditions for fleas to develop. Although dogs can get fleas at any time of year, as the weather gets warmer it’s good to be particularly vigilant by regularly checking your dog for signs of fleas and using a flea treatment as a part of your routine.

Worms

April showers and the generally warmer wet months of spring tend to bring an abundance of slugs and snails. The lungworm parasite can be carried by slugs and snails and left behind in their trails. When dogs are exploring the undergrowth, drinking from puddles, and generally adventuring outside the risk of their becoming infected by lungworm is increased.

Daylight Saving Time

With spring also comes daylight saving time. We all look forward to the clocks springing forward an hour, meaning that we enjoy lighter evenings. Whilst this often comes with longer and more exciting evening walks for our canine companions the initial change in the clocks can be difficult. Dogs are creatures of habit and for many dogs routine is important. A sudden switching of their routine by a whole hour each day can be confusing and stressful for some dogs. By adjusting their routine gradually over the week by just 10 minutes a day means that they can end the week on British Summer Time, without suddenly having the stress of an extra hour to wait for food and walk times. Melatonin, the hormone which regulates the bodies daily rhythm and sleep is shown to fluctuate throughout the year in line with the seasons. Dogs, like us can have their sleep and daily rhythms affected by the hours of daylight and seasonal changes.

Weather and Temperature

As we enter springtime the weather usually becomes warmer. Dogs manage less well with heat than humans, so be mindful of the temperatures and take measures to ensure they are safe and comfortable. Consider the weather before heading out on a walk. Often walking earlier in the morning and later in the evening allows for cooler temperatures, and taking water for your dog allows them to stay hydrated and keep cool.

Stings, Adders

Adders are the only venomous snake in the UK and springtime is when they are emerging from hibernation. Curious dogs are most likely to be bitten during Spring when adders are basking in the sun.
The emergence of flora as the weather improves also means that insect numbers increase. The potential for dogs to obtain stings and insect bites is greater than during winter months.

Allergies

Around 1 in 10 dogs in the UK can have allergic reactions to grass and pollen like humans can. This hayfever type allergy is less common than allergies to flea bites or dust mites, but still a consideration as we enter the spring season. As spring arrives and the pollen counts rise you may see signs of scratching and nibbling of paws, the face, armpits, legs, groin, and tummy. Irritated red skin or eyes, and hair loss as a result of the scratching can also be seen, as well as changes to the coat condition to feel more flaky or greasy. If you notice any of these signs of allergy in your dog, limiting their exposure to pollen is key. Consider wiping their coat and paws when they’ve been outside and regularly grooming to remove pollen from the coat. Washing their bedding and vacuuming the home regularly is advised, as well as avoiding walking your dog in places linked to their itching worsening and when the pollen forecasts are high.

With the various challenges that spring brings, you might be wondering how you can support your dog’s wellbeing. Amongst the focuses of this article are listed some ways to minimise the impact of these challenges, but supporting your dog’s gut health and microbiome is a great way to support their overall health and wellbeing every day.

Microbiome health and the use of pre and probiotics is shown to benefit allergies and itching. This is particularly useful when it comes to managing springtime environmental allergies and itching. Studies are required to understand how microbiome health and probiotics could potentially prevent allergies. Studies into probiotics to reduce the itching and scratching signs of allergy in dogs are limited, but show positive results in their effectiveness.
A strong microbiome diversity and the use of probiotics is also shown to support good brain health and calmer behaviour. Through the gut-brain axis we can see how good microbiome health links to good mental health with a reduced incidence of anxiety. Good mental health is something we want to maintain all year around, but probiotics can be used to boost gut health at stressful times.

Probiotics are also thought to benefit the immune system, obesity and weight control, and the control of allergies, amongst others. More research is required in dogs to investigate these applications.
There are a number of challenges faced by dogs as the seasons change, we have prepared you for a few of these, and remember that supporting your dogs gut health is a great way to convey general health and wellbeing support.

References

  1. Zań RS, Roliński Z, Kowalski CJ, Bojarska-Junak A, Madany J. Diurnal and seasonal changes in endogenous melatonin levels in the blood plasma in dogs. Pol J Vet Sci. 2013;16(4):759-61. doi: 10.2478/pjvs-2013-0110. PMID: 24597316.
  2. Iannino F, Sulli N, Maitino A, Pascucci I, Pampiglione G, Salucci S. Fleas of dog and cat: species, biology and flea-borne diseases. Vet Ital. 2017 Dec 29;53(4):277-288. doi: 10.12834/VetIt.109.303.3. PMID: 29307121.
  3. https://www.pdsa.org.uk/pet-help-and-advice/looking-after-your-pet/all-pets/pets-and-daylight-savings
  4. https://www.guidedogs.org.uk/getting-support/information-and-advice/dog-care-and-welfare/dog-seasonal-dangers/
  5. https://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/health-and-dog-care/health/health-and-care/a-z-of-health-and-care-issues/spring-dangers/
  6. https://www.bluecross.org.uk/advice/dog/health-and-injuries/can-dogs-have-hay-fever
  7. https://www.vets-now.com/pet-care-advice/can-dogs-get-hay-fever/
  8. Grześkowiak Ł, Endo A, Beasley S, Salminen S. Microbiota and probiotics in canine and feline welfare. Anaerobe. 2015 Aug;34:14-23. doi: 10.1016/j.anaerobe.2015.04.002. Epub 2015 Apr 8. PMID: 25863311; PMCID: PMC7111060.
  9. Kawano K, Iyori K, Kondo N, Yamakawa S, Fujii T, Funasaka K, Hirooka Y, Tochio T. Clinical effects of combined Lactobacillus paracasei and kestose on canine atopic dermatitis. Pol J Vet Sci. 2023 Mar;26(1):131-136. doi: 10.24425/pjvs.2023.145014. PMID: 36961289.

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