Autumn Dangers and Tips to Keep Your Pet Safe
Autumn has its hazards, like any other season. You might be surprised to learn about some of them. Here are just a few things to watch for.
Football parties and food
It’s officially football season, and everyone loves hosting the game. Unfortunately, this can lead to upset stomachs during the fall because of table scraps and dangerous foods that guests give pets.Dogs and cats are used to eating the same food every day. Their gastrointestinal tracts develop natural flora (or bacteria) that specifically digest their regular food. When dogs eat something that they are unaccustomed to, such as nachos and chicken wings, they can develop severe inflammation, vomiting and diarrhea. It can also lead to more serious conditions such as pancreatitis.
In addition to foreign foods, some foods in large quantities are toxic to our pets, such as grapes, onions, garlic and raisins. Some foods can present a risk for choking, such as:
- Corn on the cob
- Fruits with pits
- Foods with bones
- Toothpicks or skewers
These may have to be surgically removed, which can be very costly and stressful. Make sure to talk to your guests, especially kids, before parties and remind them not to feed your dogs any food. You want to enjoy the party too, not spend it looking after a pet with an upset stomach.
Fur and Skin Issues
Fall’s cool weather can be a welcome change, but it can bring a host of skin and fur issues for your canine.
Seasonal allergies can be a problem for people and pets in the fall. For example, ragweed blooms in late summer and early fall, ending with the first frost. Until then, your allergic pet may suffer signs such as licking, biting, scratching, hair loss, itchy ears and skin that is red, dry, greasy, scabby or stinky — especially on the legs, feet, face, belly or thighs. Talk to your veterinarian to see if your dog might have seasonal allergies and learn about medications to help relieve the itch.
Many pets shed their lighter summer coat in the fall to make way for a thicker winter coat. That means there will likely be hair, hair everywhere. Brush your pet more frequently to help reduce the amount of fur flying around your home.
Thanks to milder fall weather and warmer spring temps, many ticks, including deer ticks (or black-legged ticks) are expanding their range and are more likely to be out year-round. Even if ticks aren’t active all 365 days of the year, they are active every month of the year in many places. Where some of us live, there will always be a few days that are warm enough for them to make an appearance. Consider keeping your pet on tick preventive year-round and keep your yard manicured to reduce tick habitats such as leaf piles. Check your dog thoroughly for ticks after hikes in brushy or wooded areas, especially if there’s a large deer population.
A number of potentially poisonous substances come out of storage in the fall. They include rat and mouse poisons, antifreeze and mothballs. Mushrooms and toadstools are also likely to pop up in fall and can be deadly to pets as well. Take your pet to the veterinarian immediately if you suspect any type of poisoning. If possible, bring a sample of the suspected poison or the box it came in.
There are several different types of chemicals in mouse and rat poisons, all with different active ingredients. Many of these mouse and rat baits are toxic and can be deadly if ingested. Signs of rodenticide poisoning depend on the type of product used. Bromethalin can cause changes in behavior, such as pressing the head against a wall or circling repeatedly. Anticoagulant poisoning prevents blood from clotting, causing internal bleeding. Other signs can include difficulty breathing, coughing, nose bleeds and unusual lethargy. If your dog ingests any rodenticides, bring him/her to your veterinarian immediately. Try and take the label or box that the rodenticide came with so your veterinarian can assess the active ingredient and whether it is toxic. When placing rodenticides, it is imperative to keep them away from your pets!
Antifreeze has a sweet smell and taste and our pets love to lick it. Antifreeze is extremely dangerous if ingested and is one of the most common forms of poisoning in pets. Antifreeze contains ethylene glycol, which is highly toxic to pets. As little as one teaspoon in a cat or a tablespoon or two for dogs, depending on the size of animal, can be fatal. Signs of early poisoning include acting drunk or uncoordinated, vomiting, excessive thirst and urination, lethargy and seizures.
Mothballs can seem harmless (except to moths), but they are moderately to severely toxic to cats and dogs.
Mothballs contain either paradichlorobenzene or naphthalene, which can cause:
- Severe abdominal pain
- Possible kidney or liver failure
- Severe abnormality of your pet’s red blood cells if ingested
If you use mothballs, please make sure they are well out of the reach of your pets. Cats, in particular, tend to think that a mothball is just the right size for a toy, so keep these toxic objects well out of reach.
There are certain types of mushrooms that can be toxic for our dogs, causing:
- Abdominal pain
- Liver and kidney disease
Amanita phalloides (Death Cap) is a mushroom found throughout Canada and the United States which can be difficult to identify. It is best to avoid all mushrooms and consider them toxic until proven otherwise. Some dogs will eat anything, including these deadly wild mushrooms and toadstools. Some are so set on eating anything that looks edible that wearing muzzles should be considered when outdoors to prevent them from ingesting these toxic fungi. Make sure to check your yard for any wild mushrooms, and keep a look out when you take your pets for a walk.
Compost bins or piles
Piles of decomposing and decaying organic matter and molding food products in your backyard compost pile have the potential to contain “tremorgenic mycotoxins,” meaning molds which cause tremors. Even small amounts ingested can result in tremors or seizures within 30 minutes to several hours.
Visibility is an issue in fall. There’s less daylight, so you may be walking your dog in the dark both morning and evening.
When walking your pet in the dark, put a reflective or blinking collar on him to make sure motorists, bicyclists and other dog walkers can see him. A blinking collar may also help to ward off urban coyotes who sometimes have little compunction about attacking dogs, even those on leash and accompanied by a person.
We hope this helps all pet parents out there be more aware of all the possible fall pet hazards. So get out there with your pets and enjoy the beautiful weather with safety and caution. Our goal always is to keep our pets safe and healthy. As much as we love seeing them walk in through our doors, we prefer to help avoid “sick” trips to the veterinarian.
Happy fall everyone!