Dogs will move quickly when they think they can get their paws on something tasty to eat or fun to play with.
But there is plenty that they’ll come across at this time of year that isn’t safe for them to tuck into, sniff, or get very close to at all.
From plants that burn and contaminated water that could make them sick, to insects that’ll leave their eyes itching – there’s a number of items in the great outdoors that you should try to keep your four-legged friend well away from.
We’ve rounded up nine of the most harmful plants and insects, most commonly found in spring and summer, that are best avoided:
With spring in full swing and fields packed with rapeseed crop, social media has been circulating stark warnings this month for dog walkers who are roaming with their pets at this time of year.
The rapeseed crop, which is a distinctive yellow colour, can lead to a number of health problems if walked through by dogs or they attempt to eat it.
Officials at the Dogs Trust say that coming into contact with rapeseed could lead to anything from vomiting and diarrhoea to skin burns if they were to scrape through large bunches in fields.
While most reactions are likely to be mild, and resolve themselves, anyone with concerns about their dog’s health after being on a walk should contact their vet, says Dogs Trust.
2. Blue-green algae
Blue green algae can be fatal for dogs or lead to long term health problems for those pets fortunate enough to survive either drinking or swimming in algae-contaminated water.
According to animal charity Blue Cross some types of blue-green algae – and not all are as harmful as others – can kill a dog in just 15 minutes to an hour after ingesting the contaminated water because the harmful toxins rapidly stop the animal’s liver working.
Dogs who have been swimming in the water can also get the algae caught in their fur which they then ingest at a later date while cleaning themselves at home.
Symptoms of blue-green algae poisoning can include vomiting, seizures, drooling, confusion and breathing difficulties.
The charity’s warning adds: “There is no antidote for the toxins produced by the bacteria, but if caught early enough, your vet will likely try to make your dog sick and attempt to flush the toxins from the body before they take hold. Sadly, blue-green algae poisoning often eventually causes fatal liver failure.
“These symptoms are commonly seen with other illnesses too, which are often less serious, but you should always call your vet if you are worried your pet is sick.”
3. Bee and wasp stings
Most bee and wasp stings will cause a dog some mild pain and irritation but will resolve themselves without the need to see a vet.
However animal experts suggest that where possible you still keep your pets away from them– with teaching your pooch to come back when called among the most successful methods for keeping them out of harm’s way.
But a bee or wasp sting to the mouth, or a larger number of stings on a dog’s body – for example if they’ve disturbed a nest – can be more problematic. A sting inside the mouth can be more dangerous if the swelling blocks the animal’s airways and makes it difficult for them to breathe, while a flurry of stings could lead to a more significant allergic reaction in your pet.
Biting or nibling at the sting site, pawing at their mouth or nose, whining and limping might all be signs alerting you that something is wrong.
4. Oak processionary moth caterpillars
In early May the Forestry Commission appealed for help from people to report sightings of the highly toxic oak processionary moth caterpillar.
The creatures emerge between May and July to eat before turning into moths – but their hair-covered bodies can pose a real danger to both humans and pets.
The long hairs, which cover their entire bodies and can also be found scattered throughout a caterpillar nest, can cause itchy rashes and eye and throat problems, and sometimes breathing difficulties, for those who come into contact with them. The caterpillars should not be handled or touched ‘under any circumstances’ says the Commission, which also advises keeping pets and livestock well away.
Andrew Hoppit, Oak Processionary Moth Project Manager, explained: “At this time of year, many of us enjoy being outdoors in green spaces of all kinds. If you live in London and the surrounding areas, it’s really important for you to be aware of the health risks posed by tree pests like oak processionary moth.”
5. Giant Hogweed
Giant hogweed is an invasive plant, which contains toxins that can cause severe burns and scarring. Dangerous to both humans and their pets, the stems and leaves of the plant can lead to nasty skin burns and blisters while the toxin is in a higher concentration within the sap, which is released if the plant is snapped or broken.
While animals may have some protection from their fur – exposed areas like their ears, mouth or thinned out furry areas on their tummy – risk being badly affected.
Animal charity the PDSA says dog owners need to be aware of keeping their animals away from giant hogweed when out walking.
The warning reads: “If the sap is licked off the coat or goes into the eyes, it can cause even more damage. It’s important to contact your vet if you think your pet has come into contact with Giant Hogweed. If you’re worried about yourself, or someone you know, contact your doctor or the NHS for help.”
6. Mushrooms/ Fungi
There are many species of fungi in the UK and only some are toxic to animals and humans but if in doubt, says the PDSA, keep your dogs away from foraging among them on the ground.
Some types can cause irritation to a dog’s stomach that might lead to sickness and diarrhoea or in more serious cases fits, abnormal heart rhythms and organ failure.
The advice reads: “As identifying the different types of mushrooms can be difficult, it’s best to avoid them completely to make sure your pet doesn’t accidentally eat a toxic variety.”
Foxglove can be a honey bee’s best friend but they are definitely not one for dogs.
The trumpet-shaped plants, say the Woodland Trust, mainly flower between June and September and as well as being planted in gardens they can be found on woodland edges, roadside verges, heathland and in hedgerows. While an important pollen source for bees, the tall spikes of flowers can be highly toxic and ingesting the plant can lead to severe poisoning for both animals and humans.
The poison within a foxglove can interfere directly with the heart, so anyone who thinks their animal may have had a close brush with the flower should seek advice from a vet.
8. Rhubarb Leaves
The Dogs Trust is among the animal organizations warning owners about the danger of rhubarb leaves. Raw or cooked, the leaves of rhubarb should be avoided and owners should endeavor to keep their pets away from any places where it’s being grown in the ground.
In more serious cases the leaves can cause vomiting and diarrhoea while irritation in their mouth – with symptoms such as drooling – is also possible. And while your pet would perhaps need to consume quite a portion of leaves before being poorly, it is best – agree the experts – to play it safe.
9. Onions, garlic and chives
The spring and summer months are always a great time for growing more in the garden while barbecues and picnics mean that there are more tempting plates of food hanging around for animals outside.
But onions, garlic and chives are near the top of the list of foods that you should always keep away from your dog.
The onion family, says animal charity Battersea, whether dry, raw or cooked, is particularly toxic to dogs.
Complications if they eat any of the foods can include gastrointestinal irritation and red blood cell damage. Crucially, says the warning, signs of illness are not always immediate and can occur up to a few days later making it even trickier to try and understand what has upset them. So the advice is to play it safe and be aware of the dangers when pooches are about.