NEW YORK (AP) — Spring has sprung for many and it's time to air out the house, toss the closets and start plotting the yard work. For pet owners, it's also the perfect time to take an accounting of furry and feathered loved ones.
From a medication check to grooming, there's lots that can be done to ensure the well-being of pets as warm weather blossoms.
"Medications for your cat and dog are very much like ours," said Rob Jackson, the CEO and co-founder of Healthy Paws Pet Insurance and Foundation, based in Bellevue, Washington.
The company has an array of hacks for spring cleaning your pet.
Colleen Williams, in a Healthy Paws blog post, urges owners to toss pet food bowls and plastic toys into the dishwasher but skip the heated dry setting to avoid meltdown. For heavy duty rubber toys, she suggests a 15-minute soak in one part vinegar to two parts hot water for 15 minutes before hand scrubbing.
Lots of factors shorten the shelf life of pet meds. There are expiration dates, of course, but also environmental factors such as extreme temperature swings. Jackson said some medications may not show signs of degrading, while others may be discolored or change in consistency or odor.
"Administering medications that are past their prime can have dangerous health consequences for your pet," he said. "Some may be ineffective because they're expired. Even worse, if a pet parent assumes the medication has been weakened, they may overdose their pet."
It happens, and sometimes the effects linger. Jackson suggests breaking out a black light.
"They help detect the issues that your eyes can't spot on their own," he said.
What your eyes can't spot but your nose may be well aware of is the damage that lingering accidents can do to rugs and upholstery over time. Use an enzyme-based cleaner to help ensure pets don't return to the same spots.
Jackson isn't talking, necessarily, about a day out. He's talking about an extended at-home grooming session to check for any abnormalities not immediately apparent.
Abnormal skin colorations and growths under all that fur may require some deep digging to detect, for example. When was the last time you took a long look at your pets' teeth and gums? Presumably, regular vet visits include such inspections, but there are changes a pet owner is best positioned to detect.
In addition to a pet's medicine cabinet, Jackson urges owners to tidy up health records and receipts as well.
"Digitally save invoices and records to a folder on your desktop, or physically locate any paperwork from years past," he said.
ABOUT THOSE TOYS
Spring is as good a time as any to take an accounting of exactly what a pet is playing with, what a pet has heavily damaged and what has been dismissed.
Williams writes: "How many catnip mice does kitty really play with?" She adds: "Even toys with squeakers and crinkles can make it through the washer unscathed, although let them air dry to be perfectly safe."
COLLAR AND LEASH CHECKS
Does that collar have sentimental value? Spring is a great time to thoroughly clean it.
Soak it in hot soapy water using pet shampoo, Williams writes. After about 15 minutes, rinse and let the collar air dry.
If a pet's collar holds no sentimental value, swap it out for a new one, along with a new leash.
IT'S OUTSIDE BRUSHING SEASON
While some owners use vacuums specifically for pet hair and dander, Williams notes spring is a great time to groom outdoors.
"Particularly fluffy pets should be brushed outside, where extra fur can become one with nature," she writes. "This keeps fur balls from collecting indoors, which pretty much defeats the point of brushing your pet. If you're up to the task, try leash training your cat to allow for outdoor grooming."