We love fall for the football, crisp cool air, colorful foliage and even a little bit of snow (depending on where you live). The refreshing temperatures and vibrant colors of autumn create the perfect environment for long strolls with your pet or cuddling up together inside where you are nice and cozy watching the leaves fall from the trees. As beautiful as fall is, there are still some dangers and safety tips to keep in mind when it comes to your pet’s health during the season.
Just because summer is gone doesn’t mean that tick season is over. Despite the change of season, fleas and ticks are still out and about looking for your pet. Several tick species such as deer ticks can survive well into the winter. Ticks are responsible for the spread of Lyme disease which can be just as dangerous to you as it is for your pet. Be sure to continue with your preventive heartworm, flea, and tick medication all year round.
Nothing says fall like freshly raked leaves, but as tempting as those leaf piles might be, they are also breeding grounds for harmful molds and bacteria, not to mention a favorite hideout for ticks. Keep your pet out of the leaves and always check for ticks before returning indoors.
Fall allergens such as ragweed and mold can cause your pet to itch, sneeze, and cough just like humans do throughout the season. If you know or suspect your pet may have allergies, take him to the vet to get tested so they can determine the best treatment plan for your pet.
Wild flora and fauna
There’s a fungus among us! Mushrooms and other wild fungi tend to pop up during the fall and while often they are harmless, some can be highly toxic to your pet. It is best to survey your yard before releasing your pet outdoors unattended or keep him close during walks and other outings.
Not many flowers bloom in colder weather, but one to take note of is the autumn crocus. While it is a beautiful flower, if it is consumed by your pet it can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, and sometimes death.
It is also the beginning of the hibernation season which means a lot of wild animals such as skunks, raccoons, bears, and snakes are out preparing for their long winter nap. Keep a close eye out of wildlife and be sure to keep your distance if you do come across any wild animals.
If you live in an area with venomous snakes, familiarize yourself with the species and area to which they tend to be attracted. Snakes can be awful grumpy this time of year and won’t hesitate to bite or strike at a curious pet. If you think your pet has been bitten, call your vet and the ASPCA Poison Control Center (888-426-4435) and seek immediate medical care.
Rodents such as mice and rats are also in search of warmer temperatures, which means an increase of rat/mouse poisons during the fall. Rodenticides are highly toxic to pets and should be stowed well out of reach.
Fall brings cooler weather and depending on where you live, autumn can be as wet as spring. A wet fall combined with sometimes bone-chilling weather can be uncomfortable for some pets to say the least.
It can be a good idea to invest in a sweater or jacket for pets with short-haired coats as it’ll help keep them warm. While most breeds can tolerate colder weather, some may need a little extra help. Remember that pets don’t have to be outside for a long time for them to get too cold. Place blankets in their doghouses if you know they will spend a lot of time outdoors. If you plan to be out with your pet in cooler weather, consider buying booties to keep those precious paws nice and dry.
Be mindful of older pets or those with compromised immune systems when it comes to being outside in colder temperatures as it can cause conditions such as arthritis to flare up. Talk to your vet if you notice your pet showing signs of discomfort or reluctance to move, limping, and unusual vocalizations while moving.
Fall will also bring about shorter days, so it is a good idea to plan for walks in the dark. Use caution and wear reflective gear so others can see you at night. A flashlight can be handy for lighting your way as well as helping you spot out any potential dangers in the distance.
As the temperature drops, some people will begin to use antifreeze with their motor vehicles to help keep them running smoothly. Antifreeze should be stored away from your pet’s reach as it contains a highly toxic chemical called ethylene glycol.
Pets are attracted by its’ sweet scent and taste, but if a dog or cat ingests even the smallest amount, the reaction can be most serious and sometimes fatal.
When setting up your centerpieces and other holiday decorations be sure to store them far from your pet’s path as some can be potentially poisonous- especially holiday plants.
Poinsettias often reserved for winter holidays can cause oral irritation and dangerous gastrointestinal problems to pets if eaten as well as chrysanthemums, holly, and mistletoe. Lilies are highly toxic to cats and indigestion can result in kidney failure and death.
Keep all fall plants and decorations out of your pet’s reach and call your vet immediately if you suspect your pet ate something he shouldn’t have.
If you know you might be traveling this holiday season, be sure to make your plans with a walker, sitter, or daycare now. As the holidays approach, most of us will get busier and many people will be traveling. By preparing ahead, you can make the holidays easier on your pets.
Fall celebrations often mean people coming over to visit your home. Strange guests and loud noises can sometimes be overwhelming to even the most social of pets. Be mindful of your animal companion and be sure to provide them with a safe place they can relax if they need to escape the chaos.
The holiday season allows us to ramp up our intake of hearty heavy foods and sweets. Thanksgiving is a time for friends, family and holiday feasts with moist turkey and gravy, sauces, casseroles, pies, and other delectable delights. We know it may be tempting to share some of your good with your pets, but it is important to note that some of those favorite foods are toxic to your pet.
- Fatty foods– Foods with high caloric intake such as mashed potatoes, gravies, casseroles, and even nuts can put your pet at high risk of developing pancreatitis, a painful and potentially fatal inflammation of your pet’s pancreas.
- Alcohol– Alcoholic beverages and food products can cause vomiting, diarrhea, decreased coordination, tremors, coma, and abnormal blood acidity. Under no circumstances should your pet be given alcohol, if consumed contact poison control right away.
- Bones– Though bones and dogs seem synonymous, avoid giving him any food bones. Raw bones might be natural if your pet was a wild dog, but domestic pets can often suffer grave injuries from eating raw bones. Instead, opt for “made for pet” dog bones that are sold at pet stores.
- Chocolate, coffee, and caffeine– All of these products contain a substance called methylxanthines which are found in cacao seeds used for coffee, chocolate, and other products such as soda. Ingestion of these products can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, seizures, and death. Dark chocolate is more dangerous than milk, and baking chocolate can contain just as many methylxanthines.
- Onions, chives, nutmeg, and garlic– Though these seasonings and vegetables can help spice up a dish, they are toxic to pets and can cause red blood cell damage. Cats are more susceptible to these toxins than others.
- Raw meat and eggs– No one should consume raw eggs or meat as bacteria such as Salmonella and E. Coli can be harmful to your body, and your pet is no different.
- Salty snacks– Large amounts of salt can produce excessive thirst and urination and can result in sodium ion poisoning in pets.
- Yeast– Raw yeast dough may cause your pet’s digestive system to bloat and potentially twist becoming a life-threatening emergency.
- Xylitol– A common sweetener used in many products such as candy, gum, baked goods, sodas, and toothpaste. It can cause insulin release in most species which leads to liver failure and hypoglycemia.
If you believe your pet has come into contact with any toxic or unknown substance. Please contact ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435.
As fall rolls in and we begin this year’s holidays, we want you and your pets to truly enjoy the season to the fullest extent, so keep these helpful tips in mind. For more information contact Veterinary Emergency & Critical Care.