When the weather warms up, my dog Oscar wants nothing more to run outside and play right alongside the kids. As a matter of fact, I do believe he thinks he’s one of them! But as fun as it is to romp outside with your furry friends, every season brings its fair share of problems. This spring, take extra precaution when your indoor pets take to the outdoors. Here are some helpful tips.

Check for Little Critters
One drawback of having a good romp outside is the inevitable bugs that hitch a ride (or grab a meal) on your pet. I try to avoid harsh repellents on my pets. Instead, I opt for more natural solutions. First of all, always give your dog or cat a good check upon returning indoors to look for any ticks that may have latched on. Don’t forget the ears, too, where they often like to hide. If you do find a tick, the safest way to remove it is to saturate a cotton ball with dish detergent or liquid hand soap. Cover the tick for about a minute and it should slide right off. If it still resists, you may need to resort to tweezers. Don’t forget to check for fleas as well. Place a piece of white paper underneath your pet when you comb through his coat with a flea comb. If your pet has fleas, you will see them on the piece of paper. The best way to tackle this persistent problem is regular bathing with flea shampoo. The trick is to let the lather sit on the coat for a minimum of five minutes.

Watch for Wandering
Keep a close eye on your indoor pet when you venture into the great outdoors. The excitement of the new surroundings can often turn obedient pets into curious wanderers. Always stay close by in case they want to stray. Remember, leashes are only for walks. Do not tie up your animal outside where they can twist the cord and potentially strangle themselves. Either keep your pet in a fenced in area or bring them back inside with you. Of course, this only holds true for dogs. Cats have a mind of their own. If your cat takes to the great outdoors, you’ll see her when she wants to be seen. Our two cats, Captain Grey and Charlotte, are fiercely independent. The other day I was going to pick up the girls from school and I saw Charlotte lounging on the front porch of our neighbor about eight houses down. She looked at me driving by in the van as if to say, “Yeah, so what’s your deal?” and then began licking her paw.

Stay Fed and Watered
Your pet will get thirsty after he plays outside. Always make sure there is plenty of clean water available. Also, with an increase in activity, your pet will probably experience an increase in food consumption. An extra snack here and there will make your pets jump for joy. Try to avoid the high-fat, high-salt treats from the pet aisle. Instead, just make your own. There are plenty of great recipes for dog and cat treats online. You can also sprinkle some nutritional yeast on their food for extra vitamins. Many pets also love raw veggies. Oscar’s favorite snacks are raw carrots and apple slices. Why not make a picnic for the whole family (including the pets) and enjoy this beautiful weather?

Hannah Keeley is the founder of www.hannahkeeley.com and the mother of seven children. She is the author of “Hannah’s Art of Home” and “Hannah Keeley’s Total Mom Makeover,” has appeared on the Today show, Fox and Friends, Rachael Ray and is host of the brand new PBS series “Hannah, Help Me!” which begins airing in June.

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