Springtime Parasite Safety For Your Dog

outdoor dogs

Springtime Parasite Safety For Your Dog


It’s the time of year when your pet is going to start spending more time outdoors. You may not give much thought to who he shares that space with—but you should. From deer and coyotes to foxes, skunks, bats, and raccoons, wild animals can pose a serious threat as they carry a variety of diseases that can be transmitted to pets and people. Springtime parasite safety for your dog is definitely something you want to think about.


  • Rabies is a disease caused by a virus that attacks the brain. It can affect any warm-blooded animal, including dogs, cats, and humans. It is almost always fatal.
  • All mammals can contract rabies, but some are more susceptible than others. Foxes, skunks, and raccoons are particularly prone to rabies and can be carriers. The disease is transmitted by the bite of a rabid animal to another mammal.
  • The best way to prevent rabies is to have your pet vaccinated. For more information visit pet vaccinations


  • Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that affects livestock, wildlife, companion animals, and humans. Symptoms of the disease can vary, but common signs include fever, lethargy, and vomiting. The disease can be fatal if left untreated or even if treatment is delayed.
  • Leptospirosis is most commonly transmitted through standing water or soil contaminated with the urine of infected animals. Pets at particularly high risk include those who frequent dog parks, visit hiking trails or other nature areas that have an increase in wildlife traffic, or spend any time outdoors, even if only in the yard. Pets that are walked in common areas such as apartment complexes or busier neighborhoods are also at great risk.
  • A vaccine is available to protect your pet against leptospirosis infection. In addition, be sure not to let your pet drink from standing water and avoid any areas that may be contaminated.


  • Tapeworms are long, flat worms that live in your pet’s intestines.
  • In order to become infected with tapeworms, your pet must ingest a flea that contains tapeworm eggs. This process begins when fleas are accidentally ingested upon licking or chewing the skin. The flea is digested within your pet’s intestine and the tapeworm hatches, anchoring itself to the intestinal lining. We are seeing an increased number of pets with fleas every year, even in the city.
  • Tapeworm infections are treated with a deworming medication that kills the worms within the intestines.
  • The most effective way to prevent infections in pets and humans is through aggressive and thorough flea control.

 Giardiaswimming dogs

  • Giardia is a parasite that lives in the intestines and is passed in the feces. In some humans and animals, it can cause diarrhea and cramping known as Giardiasis. Anything that comes in contact with feces from infected humans or animals can be contaminated with the Giardia parasite.
  • Wildlife including beavers, muskrats, deer, coyotes, and rodents are frequent carriers of Giardia. Pets may become infected after drinking from puddles or ponds or swallowing infected stool from other animals. Signs of Giardia infection include diarrhea, greasy stools, and dehydration.
  • Giardiasis can be treated with medication; however, this parasite can persist in the environment and lead to reinfection. Because of this, environmental disinfection is also critical.

Tick Transmitted Diseases

  • Ticks are blood-feeding external parasites that can attach to both animals and humans and spread transmit numerous bacterial diseases, including Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
  • Ticks are unable to jump and instead find their hosts through a behavior called “questing.” Questing ticks perch on leaves or blades of grass with their front legs extended, waiting to climb onto a host that brushes past. They can easily grab a hold of your pet’s fur as he travels through particularly grassy, bushy, or wooded areas. The tick then burrows down through the hair where it attaches to the skin.
  • When it comes to preventing ticks and the diseases they spread, consistent parasite control is key. In addition, you should always examine your pet thoroughly after hikes or other outdoor activities. If you find a tick on your pet, it is important to remove it as soon as possible, if you are unsure or unable to remove it yourself please call your vet for assistance.
  • A Lyme disease vaccine may be also be recommended for pets who are highly exposed to ticks.

As always, do not hesitate to contact us with any questions. staff@gentletouchanimalhospital.com or 303.691.3720

Pet Friendly Gardens

Pet Friendly Gardens Pet2

Pet Friendly Gardens



Spring is in full bloom on the Front Range, and summer is soon to come. Your pet friendly gardens isaredeners with pets, garden planning is more nuanced as we take into consideration environments and plants that are both good for and dangerous to our pets. Fear not, dear gardeners, for we have broken down the biggest issues that the pet-loving gardener faces to help you craft the perfect pet-friendly gardens (and what to do should Fido find something dangerous).


Pet-Friendly Garden Basics

The pet-friendly garden should include a few key elements: spots for both sun and shade, a water source, frequent removal of feces, and barriers to prevent access to toxic plants. Many pets benefit from additional space to romp and play fetch or a kiddie pool to cool off. As you plan your basic outline of your garden, think about your specific pets and what they enjoy most about the great outdoors and tailor your space to meet their needs.

    As temperatures increase, having shade is increasingly important, as this will protect your pet from heat stroke, a fast-occurring and deadly disease. It is therefore important to include plants that provide ample shade to make your yard cool. While trees are the most obvious sources of shade, tall shrubs such as lilacs can also serve as excellent shade-bearers. Just be careful to avoid shrubs that are potentially toxic, such as privet, mock orange, or boxwood, especially if your pet loves to chew on plants. However, if you can’t resist the smell of a mock orange or the gorgeous hue of a burning bush, just put up an effective barrier such as a fence or chicken wire tall enough so that your pet cannot jump over it. Just as important as shade is a water source during hot summer days. While it may seem convenient to use a pond or fountain as a good place for this, these sources can harbor bacteria or algae that can cause serious harm to your pet. Instead, opt for a water bowl that is filled with fresh water daily. Finally, consider providing a shelter for Fido should the weather turn foul – this may be as simple as providing easy access into the house or garage or a doghouse just for him.


Pet-Safe Plants

    If your kitty loves the great outdoors, a cat-friendly garden is a great way to engage her senses. Catnip is by far the most well-known cat-friendly plant. This herb is known to have psychoactive effects on some cats, often causing a sense of euphoria. While your cat is likely to fall in love with catnip, remember that it will attract other cats as well. Additionally, if not pruned appropriately, catnip can easily become invasive. Cats also enjoy nibbling on grasses such as oat grass or wheatgrass, and plants such as pumpkins, green beans, and sunflowers help to form a fun, interactive space with many spots for shade (or protection while preparing to pounce).

Dogs, on the other hand, tend not to be as curious as cats in the garden, but it is equally important to provide an environment that is both safe and enjoyable to them. Apple trees can provide both shade and tasty treats, and carrots, green beans, and pumpkins are also healthy treats for your pooch.


Fertilizers, Herbicides, and Compost

 While additional products are necessary to keep our gardens lush and weed-free, it is important to remember the risks they pose to your pet. Fertilizers contain specific levels of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium that enrich plant growth. While the ratios of these ingredients are usually pet-safe, fertilizers with added iron as well as “weed and feed” varieties can cause serious problems in dogs and cats. Additionally, blood meal can cause inflammation of the pancreas, and ingestion of bone meal can cause a hard concretion to form in your pet’s stomach, putting him at risk for intestinal obstruction. Finally, some rose fertilizers contain organophosphates, which can cause very serious disease in your dog. Herbicides generally pose a lesser threat to our animal friends, as they are made to disrupt the growth of plants. However, GI side effects and lethargy are possible if your pet consumes a concentrated product. Finally, it is important to block your pet’s access to your compost bin, because the moldy foods and plants in it can cause serious muscle tremors. Once your organic waste has turned into “black gold,” however, it should be safe for Fido to sniff.



Plants to Avoid

Finally, one of the most important tasks is to identify which plants are toxic to your pet and to ensure that she has no access to them. Below is a list of common plants that are known to cause serious toxicity in pets.


Allium spp. (onions, garlic, chives, leeks). Toxic to dogs. Cause GI side effects (vomiting, diarrhea) and occasionally anemia.

Solanaceae spp. (tomatoes, potatoes). Toxic to dogs and cats. While the ripe fruits themselves are nontoxic, ingesting the leaves or stems of the plants can cause symptoms ranging from GI upset to weakness, dilated pupils, and a slow heartbeat.

Ericacaea spp. (rhododendron, azalea, mountain laurel): Toxic to dogs. Can cause drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, slow heartbeat, and muscle tremors.


Lilies (Lillium spp., Hemerocallis spp.): Toxic to cats. All parts of the plant (including water and pollen) are toxic. Causes acute kidney failure, which may first show as vomiting, lethargy, increased thirst or urination.

Plants containing cardiac glycosides (foxglove, lily of the valley, oleander, milkweed, star of Bethlehem, burning bush): Toxic to dogs and cats. Cause drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, a slow heart rate, weakness, or collapse.

Grapes: Toxic to dogs. Can cause acute kidney failure, which can first show as vomiting, decreased appetite, increased thirst and urination.

Corn: While the plant itself is nontoxic, many dogs ingest the cobs, which can lodge in their intestines and cause an obstruction. Signs of an obstruction include vomiting, lethargy, and inappetence.

Autumn Crocus: Toxic to dogs and cats. Contains high levels of colchicine, which can cause severe vomiting and diarrhea, kidney, liver, and respiratory failure.

While this list includes many major plants of concern, it is by no means exhaustive – if you are concerned that your pet has ingested something potentially toxic, please contact your veterinarian Gentle Touch Animal Hospital or an animal poison control center.

Gentle Touch Animal Hospital: 303-691-3720

ASPCA Poison Control Center: 1-888-426-4435

Pet Poison Helpline: 1-855-764-7661Pet3


Happy Gardening from all of us at Gentle Touch! If this article helped you create your pet-friendly garden, share a picture of your pet enjoying their outdoor paradise!



ASPCA Poison Control Center: https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/toxic-and-non-toxic-plants

Pet Poison Helpline, Spring Pet Poisons (http://www.petpoisonhelpline.com/pet-owners/seasons/spring/) and Poison List (http://www.petpoisonhelpline.com/poisons/)

Brutlag, A. “From the Planter to the Carpet: Toxic Plants and the Small Animal Patient.” Proceedings, 82nd Western Veterinary Conference. 2010

Colorado Master Gardener Program: http://cmg.colostate.edu

Laura Hranac, DVM