As the humidity and sky high temperatures of summer begin to fade into crisp days, brisk winds, and cool nights, we tend to think that many of the summer risks to our pets are behind us. While owners are able to breathe a sigh of relief in terms of a lot of summer dangers, autumn is no different in terms of seasonal hazards.
While autumn presents its own dangers for dogs that other seasons may not have, it also shares some risks with other seasons. Household toxins, the garden, fleas and allergies, are issues that many owners deal with all year to keep their dog safe. However it is important to note that seasonally, the toxins, flowers, and allergens your dog is exposed to can be very different. Understanding parasite life-cycles and how the weather will affect them is also important.
There are many things you can do to around your home and yard to keep it safe for your dog. Being aware of the seasonal dangers in your own home and the surrounding area that could harm your dog is an important part of being a responsible pet owner. Even so, there are many things that you cannot control, such as the environment, that will play a big part on your dog’s health and safety. Click through the photos to view the list of potential risks and tips.
That autumn itch
Allergies are very common in dogs. Many common allergies that torment people during the fall are the same common allergies that dogs deal with. Ragweed, mold, grass, pollen, and dust are all allergens that dogs often have problems with and people are not unfamiliar with either. Dr. Betsy Brevitz, D.V.M, author of “The Complete Healthy Dog Handbook” identifies inhalant allergies as “Itchiness at first linked to a season or environment that may later become constant; often starts in young adulthood (ages one to four).” Brevitz addressed other symptoms that can be a sign of inhalant allergies as “paw-licking, face-rubbing, belly-licking, and recurrent ear infections”
Just because it isn’t summertime doesn’t mean fleas have gone into hiding. Fleas can live indoors during any weather and are most active outdoors in warm humid weather (normally at the end of summer). While fleas would make any dog itch, dogs can develop an allergy to fleas called Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD). The Veterinary Centers of America (VCA) explains what FAD is in their pet health library post Allergy – Flea Allergy Dermatitis in Dogs. The allergy is not to the actual flea, but to the saliva it injects when it bites the dog. Therefore, only a few fleas can cause a lot of itching and pain for a dog with Flea Allergy Dermatitis.
If your dog shows signs of allergies, contact your veterinarian. They may recommend something as simple as two baths a week or if the allergy has become such an irritant to your dog and is effecting their quality of life, the veterinarian may suggest allergy shots.
Allergy shots are not a cure for allergies, but they are a better way to manage them by helping the body build a stronger resistance. As an owner of a dog that receives allergy shots, the process begins by taking a blood sample from your dog to pinpoint exactly what they are allergic to. That information is used to create the allergy shots for your dog. The allergy shot works by injecting the dog with small amounts of the actual allergen. This helps the immune system build a tolerance. Although each case varies, the general concept is that the dose and strength of the shots gradually increase until a desired strength, which will become the maintenance shot, is reached. Maintenance shots are not usually given as frequently as the beginning allergy shots.
Those pesky leaf piles
Would you be surprised to see leaves on the list? On top of the fact that leaf piles are riddled with allergens, they can also contain mold, bacteria, and microorganisms. Once wet, a pile of leaves can become the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and mold growth. A pile of wet leaves may not sound appetizing to you, but have you ever caught your dog drinking from the toilet? Don’t rule things out based on your own palate. Keep in mind your dog’s history of odd eats to gain a better perspective on potential hazards.
A dog’s sense of smell is much better than ours. We won’t smell the carrots a kid tossed out of their lunch box on the way to school once they were out of mom’s sight, but your dog will. No matter the reason, if your dog eats wet leaves that have been sitting for days, they can end up with a severe upset stomach, including vomiting and diarrhea. If your dog ends up ingesting possible microorganisms, bacteria, or mold growing in the pile, more severe health problems could occur.
Getting rid of those leaf piles can be tricky. If you intend to use a leaf blower or burning leaves, you may want to keep your pet inside.
- Leaf blowers can startle and scare dogs that do not like loud noises.
- Gas powered leaf blowers can leak or spill and there isn’t much a dog won’t lick. If your dog is inside, you do not have to be concerned about any spills they could step in or lick while you are working and then you can get rid of any spots when the leaf blower is put away.
- Burning leaves is something a dog might not recognize as a danger so it’s up to you to make sure that they won’t get hurt. Smoke inhalation is a hazard as well. It’s just as dangerous to dogs as it is to people. The smoke can irritate their eyes, nose, throat, lungs, and even skin.
Getting adjusted to daylight-saving time is never fun. It can be hard to fit all of your responsibilities in the shortened amount of daylight. Many dog owners will walk their dog or exercise with their dog in the morning, before the sun is up, or in the evening or night, when the sun has gone down. This reduced visibility makes dogs harder to see on sidewalks and driveways, and roads if somehow they escape a leash.
Fall is hunting season and whether your dog is your hunting partner or just a hiking partner, it is important that your dog is safe in popular hunting areas. Dogs are natural pack hunters and have played an integral part in the evolution of how humans hunt. They have a natural instinct to chase, capture and kill prey. As human hunting methods developed, the dog’s natural ability to search, track and retrieve game proved to be an incredibly important asset.
In high grass or a densely wooded area, a dog can be mistaken for another animal. Making you’re your dog is visible and identified as a dog to others in the area is important. A common hunting vest is orange with reflective strips and is made so that it will not restrict the dog’s movements.
From the classic reflective leash, collar, and hunting vest, to the more advanced LED leash and collar, owners have a wide variety of options to choose from in order to keep their dog visible and out of harm’s way.
Getting rid of pests and rodents safely
The brisk nights make snuggling up with your pup under a blanket the perfect way to end the day. While you are warm and cozy with your dog, bugs, pests, and rodents could be creeping, crawling and scurrying into your home to get out of the cold weather. You may be hesitant to snuggle and get kisses from your terrier after his natural instinct to hunt vermin has him bringing you many undesirable gifts.
It’s a problem, but the fall has critters infiltrating our homes. Your dog’s safety needs to be kept in mind when getting rid of pesky intruders. Rodenticides and pesticides come in many forms and almost all can cause injury or be deadly to your dog. Baits in particular can be incredibly dangerous because they are made to be tasty and attract mice and rodents and they are made to kill. Unfortunately your dog doesn’t know it’s not for him or the danger of eating it. Dogs that eat or even play with a carcass of a rodent or bug that was poisoned are also taking the same risk.
Brevitz stresses the importance of taking your dog to receive veterinary assistance immediately in this situation. Even if you are unsure and think there is only a slight chance your dog got into rodenticide, pesticide, or found a carcass that was poisoned, do not wait for symptoms.
Rodenticides and pesticides have the potential to cause fatal internal bleeding. In Brevitz’s book, “The Complete Healthy Dog Handbook”, her warning is ominous, but it is reality. Brevitz writes “Don’t wait for symptoms to appear-by the time you notice any (such as bruises, nosebleeds, sore joints, bloody vomit or blood in the feces), your dog will already be in deep trouble.”
In the picture, a jack russell named Jet sits anxiously, awaiting the decision the mouse will make. His owner Michelle, www.TheJamJar.com blogger, said that Jet would “catch mice in midair as they tried to get away from him.” Although Jet may be upset that this mouse got away, he is being kept safe. The trap is set safely out of Jet’s reach and uses a pea as bait. Even if Jet decides to take credit for the mouse and prance away with him post trap-snap, he would not ingest any poison.
Fall is not typically associated with gardening dangers, but there are actually many plants that are dangerous to dogs. In some cases, a certain part of a plant may be toxic. An example of a part of a plant being toxic is the apple seed. The composition of the apple seed includes arsenic, which can be deadly to a small dog. Both Brevitz mentions apple seeds as being toxic in her book, “The Complete Healthy Dog Handbook”, and apple seeds are also mentioned on Animal Planet’s Dog Facts.
Mushrooms tend to sprout in the fall and it’s best to just try and keep your dog away from all of them if you can spot them. If your dog is too curious about them, then it is time to contact your vet on their opinion.
A common flower that blooms in autumn is the Chrysanthemum. In a blog written by Dr. Patrick Mahaney, D.V.M, “Seasonal pet health hazards associated with the fall”, he warns that the mum’s flower, stem, and leaves are all toxic to dogs and cats as well. Symptoms of ingestion are stumbling, vomiting, diarrhea, increased salivation, or skin inflammation. Mahaney mentions other common fall plants that are toxic as “meadow saffron/autumn crocus and clematis”. There are many more, these are only a few of the common fall blooms.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) has a free database of over 1000 plants and fruit that are listed as either toxic or non-toxic. You can search for dogs, cats or horses. To access the database, click here.
Composting safely around dogs
Compost piles are another hazard. Being aware of what you put in your compost pile and making sure your dog and other animals can not get into it is crucial. When mold forms, a neurotoxin called tremorgenic mycotoxin can form. Dr. Mary M. Schell, D.V.M., mentions dairy products as being especially prone for growing mold in her article, “Tremorgenic mycotoxin intoxication”. She also indicates nuts, grains, legumes and spaghetti as other sources that can grow mold. If ingested by dogs, these mycotoxins can cause a number of neurological symptoms
The Columbia Tribune published “Scary lesson: Eating Compost Can Be Fatal to Pets”. The article is a terrifying account of an owner who almost lost their six month old puppy Beauregard, after the dog had ingested the tremorgenic mycotoxin from compost. The owner caught the puppy in the act and moments after being chased out, Beauregard started shaking all over and vomiting.
The puppy continued to shake, vomit and drool uncontrollably all the way to the emergency clinic at North Carolina State Veterinary Teaching Hospital. The veterinary intern that made the diagnosis was Amanda Ardente. If she hadn’t known about the compost, Beau’s symptoms would have been nonspecific. Ardente commented on the importance of immediate treatment, “Early treatment is crucial. If left untreated, the toxins can lead to seizures and death. Also, the tremors can cause a dog’s temperature to spike. Not treating the problem is very risky.”
As a result of Beauregard’s vomiting, much of the toxin was expelled from his system. Even so, once at the hospital, they induced vomiting, intravenous catheters were inserted in each front leg to administer a steady drip of anti-seizure medication, he had to drink a charcoal liquid, and then he was given muscle relaxers. He was considered a mild case.
The picture features a cutaway model of a safe and sturdy compost bin. While a half of a compost bin is good for educating, the whole bin is one that owners wouldn’t have to worry about. Durable, fully enclosed bins, that include sturdy bottoms are the best for keeping animals out. It is important that the lids are secure and latch because even if your dog can’t figure it out, curious and hungry wildlife might.
Dangers of antifreeze
A terrifying reality is the danger antifreeze poses to not only dogs, but other animals as well. Many people choose the fall to get tune-ups for their car or do it themselves. Antifreeze contains ethylene glycol, an odorless, colorless ingredient that is incredibly toxic. On top of the high toxicity, it has a sweet taste to animals. Spots on driveways, tiny spills, are all that is necessary to make an animal violently ill or cause death.
The Animal Poison Control Center is part of the ASPCA. The ASPCA Poison Control Center takes calls 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. In an article on the ASPCA’s website, “Warning: Deadly Dangers of Antifreeze”, the Vice President of Operations for the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, Mindy Bough, expressed her concerns in the article, “Antifreeze is a serious safety concern for both cats and dogs. Unfortunately, just a few licks can cause kidney failure and death in a matter of days, even a small amount that may be licked off a paw is enough to cause serious harm.”
Brevitz reveals that even one teaspoon of antifreeze could make a small dog violently ill or be fatal. Immediate medical attention is crucial. Call your vet, an emergency veterinarian hospital, or the ASPCA Poison Control Center. The number for the Poison Control Center is (888) 426 – 4435.
Another version of antifreeze that is less toxic contains propylene glycol instead of the ethylene glycol. Although less toxic, it can still be toxic if large amounts are consumed.
Enjoy autumn safely
As long as you take steps to make sure your dog is safe, there is no reason you cannot enjoy the beautiful fall weather. Being able to let your dog run around outside, without the having the stress about the humidity, makes it easier to focus on having fun with your dog. If your dog is going to be running around and playing, bringing water is always a good idea, no matter the weather.
If you find your dog isn’t drawn to leaf piles or if you have gotten rid them, the leaves themselves can be an interesting new ground cover for dogs to have under their feet, to have float down from the trees, and to whip around their feet when they run.
The fall also provides amazing scenery for photos. As you can see in this photo, taken by Mark Peters, a little white shih tzu named Attila, and a charming, one-eyed, black shih tzu named Fry, prance through a beautiful blanket of golden leaves.
Take advantage of the fall weather to spend time outdoors with your dog, keeping these tips in mind, because before you know it, winter will arrive!