Pet allergies, fleas, ticks, undigestible items and skunks — Massillon Animal Hospital has seen it all.

MASSILLON As April turns to May and the mercury begins to rise, hospital emergency rooms and stat care facilities traditionally see a rise in traffic from weekend warriors and seasonal gardeners struggling to transition from couch potato to active adult.

So it is with the Massillon Animal Hospital, which has been providing care for the area's canines and felines for over three-and-a-half decades.

And while humans are dealing with the aches and pains that come with outdoors exertion, dogs and cats have a whole different set of issues once they get to enjoy the warming weather, including flea and tick-born illnesses.

"This is the time of the year when we see a lot of flea and tick products being sold," office manager Tammy Haley said. "I will say that February was a record month for those (product) sales only because we saw unprecedented warm weather in February that we haven't seen before."

About half of the examinations performed at the Massillon Animal Hospital are on sick dogs and cats while the other half is mostly vaccine examinations designed to prevent a pet from getting ill.

Haley, who has been at the clinic for over nine years, reports a steady increase in pet owners dealing with tick problems over the years. She says the hospital saw maybe one tick issue the first five years she was on the job, and that was a dog that had been taken camping out of the area by its owner.

Four years ago, there were around 25 tick diagnosis at the hospital, a number that jumped to 100 three years ago.

"Some of these are little dogs whose owners tell us their dog only went outside to pee, but that's when (infestation) can happen," Haley said.

"There are a couple of different tick-born diseases but Lyme is most prevalent, so we do the heartworm test that also checks for the three most common tick-born diseases. ... In the past we'd see a couple of cases here and there but we're not used to ticks being here in northern Ohio and there are a lot of people who still don't believe there is a tick issue in Ohio."

If you suspect your big, long-haired dog has picked up a tick, you just have to look for the bugger. Haley says ticks like to hide and like to go high on the animal, in the face and neck area.

"If anybody does go out and say takes their dog for a walk on the trail at Sippo Lake, when they get back to the car they should do a little tick check," Haley said. "Just kind of look in the armpits and around the neck and the ears."

Cats generally don't get ticks because they tend to groom them off. However, Haley says she has found ticks on cats, especially kittens, which do not tend to groom themselves as thoroughly as adult cats.

Another common case at the Massillon Animal Hospital during the spring season is dogs getting sprayed by skunks. The first rule of dealing with that issue is immediacy.

"My dog used to play with a skunk in my yard," Haley said with a laugh. "There is a recipe on the internet for baking soda and hydrogen peroxide and that's what you need to use."

Haley points out that the skunk is spraying an oily substance that can be removed if it is dealt with immediately.

"If you get this (baking soda/peroxide) combination on the (skunk) oil, it starts to foam so you can tell on a dog's coat where you need to concentrate your efforts as to where this is foaming," she explained. "It will work! If you do the dog right when it gets sprayed and the oil doesn't have a chance to soak in, you wouldn't know that dog was sprayed the next day. But if you wait and that oil has an opportunity, then it's a little bit harder."

Pet allergies

The hospital staff sees a lot of allergy issues in dogs and cats this time of year, usually caused by different pollens or even foods. Some better medicines have reached the market in the past few years to treat these issues, but — like in humans — it can be very difficult to determine what the pet is allergic to or if the allergy is cyclical by season.

Such allergies often manifest themselves as a skin issue, prompting the pet to scratch themselves until there is an open wound.

In addition to treating cats and dogs, the animal hospital offers a pet boarding service if the pet is under 40 pounds. The duration of stays is generally based on the familiarity the staff has with the pet and its owner.

There is also the more serious cases, such as a pet — generally larger dogs — that has swallowed something that is not coming out of the other end. Haley says she's seen a few unusual cases of this sort requiring surgery and the results are not always positive.

"There was a dog known for eating things and he ate a rubber ducky and he didn't chew it," Haley related. "It went in as a rubber ducky and had to be removed as a rubber ducky. And the x-rays are a perfect shape of a rubber ducky. You couldn't miss it. "

Unfortunately what the staff finds a lot of times inside a dog are pacifiers, and Haley says when they show up on an x-ray, they are unmistakable.

"I remember one time seeing a dog whose stomach was full of coins," she said. "The mom and dad kept change in this jar and the jar was on the floor."

The couple noticed the change jar was getting lower and lower when they weren't putting in their spare change.

"They didn't think the dog was doing it but he must have been going over to that jar and just slurping up pennies every now and again," Haley said. "He ate more pennies than his body could handle."