Planting a garden, spring cleaning, fertilizing the lawn — we all have lots of work to do with the coming of spring. But pets also have health and safety needs this time of year that their owners should know about.

“I see it all the time in my clinic in the spring and summer time. Animals get into fertilizers and pesticides, those used on a home or on a farm, and it makes the animals sick,” says Dr. James Cook, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association. “People need to be aware of these potential hazards. Along with better weather, the spring and summer brings with it the use of a number of common lawn chemicals and the blooming of plants that can be hazardous to pets.”

Here are the AVMA’s top 12 spring/summer hints for pet owners:

Fleas and ticks

They can be tiny, little more than a pinhead in some instances, but they grow and spread quickly once they find a host. The preventative treatments that you may have discontinued in the winter should start early in the spring to keep your pet’s coat, and your home, free of pests. Our veterinarians recommend that you use Frontline Plus once monthly in our area as we never get a cold enough winter to kill off the fleas.

Lawn fertilizers

Lawn fertilizers are very toxic to pets. Store fertilizers in a place far from where your dog or cat — and children– can get at it. After applying it to your lawn, follow manufacturer instructions on how long you should wait before allowing your pet into the area. If you see a sign posted on a lawn that tells you to keep your pets off, abide by it.

Pesticides and herbicides

It’s probably not surprising that these chemicals can be toxic to your pets, but, even when they’re not lethal, there are some long-term health concerns. Studies indicate the use of pesticides and herbicides may be tied to increased rates of specific forms of cancer in dogs. If your pet is exposed, wash them with soap and water immediately and call your veterinarian.

Cocoa bean mulch

It’s becoming common to mulch a garden with the fragrant spent shells of cocoa beans. But just like chocolate, dogs like to eat them and they are toxic.

Lilies

Lilies are a flower common in the spring, and they are very, very toxic to cats. Cats will often chew them, and even small amounts can lead to kidney failure and death.

Rhubarb leaves

Rhubarb makes a fine pie and it’s a staple in many vegetable gardens, but the leaves are poisonous and can cause kidney failure. For a complete list of plants and plantings that can be dangerous to pets, visit www.avma.org.

Heat Stress/Stroke

Soaring temperatures in our region pose a risk to all pets, but especially older pets, dark coated pets and obese pets and snub nosed breeds. When the temperature goes over 80 degrees, these pets should be left indooors, or at a minimum, in a shady area with plenty of fresh cool water.

Rat and mouse poisons

Controlling vermin becomes an issue again in the spring. Be aware that the same properties of common rat and mouse poisons that make them irresistible to pests will also attract your pet. If consumed, these can be fatal to your animal even in very tiny amounts.

Snail Bait

Snail Bait most often contains a poison called Metaldehyde which is extremely toxic to both dogs and cats. It causes tremors, seizures and death if left untreated. Do not use this product in areas where your pets have access to.

Cleaning products

Spring cleaning is an annual tradition in many households, but make sure the cleaning products don’t hurt your animals. If the label states “keep pets and children away from area until dry” follow those instructions carefully, and store all chemicals out of reach of children and pets.

Paint and paint thinners

If you’re putting a fresh coat of paint on the house, keep the pets away. Paint thinners, mineral spirits and other solvents can cause severe irritation or chemical burns if swallowed or even if they come in contact with your pet’s skin. Latex house paints typically produce a minor stomach upset, but some specialty paints may contain heavy metals or volatile substances that could be harmful if ingested.

Preventative medications

Heartworm disease is borne by mosquitoes which are active in spring and summer. Our veterinary team recommend that all dogs be placed on Iverhart Plus, once a month heartworm preventive. This drug is chewable, safe and will also protect your pets from Roundworms and Hookworms.