There is nothing quite like a crisp autumn breeze, beautiful foliage, and the smell of warm spices baking in the kitchen. Do beware though--fall ushers in a bushel of dangers for our furry companions. Here’s how to keep your pets safe and healthy this season.
Should you increase your pet’s food?
Some pet owners believe there is an increased need for food once the summer heat dies down. Is this necessary? Several decades ago, your veterinarian may have recommended a slight increase in your pet's food consumption as the weather cooled and your pet required slightly more caloric intake to regulate his system.
Today, however, things have changed. With a shocking number of pets categorized as obese and most dogs and cats are primarily house pets, this isn't a concern for most pet parents. If you do have a very fit working dog, a small increase may be a wise idea; with this said, an increase around 10% is probably all that is necessary. This does not mean an extra meal or an unlimited pass to treats.
The Risk of School Supplies
Many curious cats and dogs love the school and home project supplies left lying around the house. While kids may be dedicated to keeping their school supplies tidy for the first week or so, at this point in the season, school supplies may be holding living rooms hostage. School glues, permanent markers, and pencils can all cause upset stomachs. Heavy-duty glues can cause serious blockages in the GI tract and even require surgery to remove them—and part of your pet’s GI system. Make sure your children's projects stay covered up and are not accessible to your pets. Dogs in particular seem to like the flavor of glue.
This also goes for adults if you’re doing home improvement projects now that the weather has cooled off. I once had to remove over 12” of small intestine from a dog when his owner ran to Lowe's in the middle of a flooring project. His dog “helped” in the owner’s absence by ripping up the remaining linoleum and ingesting all the remaining glue. These accidents are easily avoided but repairing the damage is never as simple.
What dangers lurk when the autumn weather sets in?
Fall brings a plethora of fun opportunities and events; however, a lot of autumn-themed food and the accompanying wildlife can be dangerous for our beloved cats and dogs.
Apple Picking – Not Apple Grazing
As it turns out, apples are not the cure to health for Fido or Fluffy. If your dog likes to graze the ground for food, consider leaving Fido at home during your stroll of the apple orchards. While the flesh of ripe apples doesn’t pose a problem for dogs or cats, apple stems, leaves and seeds are not so gentle. They can cause GI upset, decreased oxygen in the blood, decreased heart rate, difficulty breathing, seizures, coma, and even death. With reasonable preparation, the flesh of apples can make a suitable treat for dogs but cats are unlikely to enjoy the flavor of this fruit.
Keep the Rich Foods to Yourself
Sharing human treats can be dangerous and even deadly. Stay away from desserts, candies, fatty meat and trimmings, bones, gravies, calorie-dense casseroles, and seasoned sides. Don't forget garlic and onions are toxic! Many pet parents aren't aware of the many dangerous things that can happen, such as acute and life-threatening pancreatitis, a condition brought on when a pet ingests highly fatty foods.
A note for any season: Do you know the most popular flavor of dog medication? It's CHOCOLATE! Turns out we aren't the only ones that enjoy the rich flavor of cocoa beans. Dogs will go to great lengths, or counter-top heights, to indulge in this deadly vice so don't leave the candy bowl or kitchen counter unsupervised and within a paw's reach for a moment!
Mushrooms Flourish in the Fall
While most are non-toxic, dogs are highly susceptible to mushroom poisoning because of their wandering and scavenging behavior. Unfortunately, dogs are unable to sniff out the toxic ones, so the best way to avoid trouble is to keep pets away from areas where any mushrooms are growing. Dogs should be prevented from consuming mushrooms when they are being exercised. Profuse bloody diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dehydration, fever, and elevated heart rates characterize the initial phase of mushroom toxicity. Without treatment, the pet will succumb to liver and kidney failure within 3-7 days. As with most poisonings, prompt upper gastrointestinal decontamination and supportive care are critical elements of treatment.
Snakebite Season is Here
Autumn is the season when snakes prepare for hibernation and are more likely to strike, increasing the possibility of bites to naive and curious pets. Be aware of what kinds of venomous snakes are in your area and practice snakebite prevention by avoiding the areas they most often inhabit.
What fall activities are safe for my pet?
While apple orchards may not be the best option for dogs who like to snack while they walk, there are plenty of other events pet owners can partake in!
Go Pumpkin Picking
Pumpkin patches are great for dogs to romp around in (if pet friendly!). Whether you intend on carving the pumpkin, having a photoshoot, or more, it is a great time with your best pup. Also, pumpkin, both raw and canned, is safe provided your pet is not suffering from a chronic condition such as kidney disease or diabetes. As far as our healthy pets go, seeds and flesh of fresh, raw or cooked pumpkins are safe. Fresh pumpkin is more nutritious than canned. If you choose to go with canned, make sure it doesn’t have added sugar or sweeteners. An easy way to have some handy dog treats around that will last several weeks is roasting the seeds in the oven.
Trick – or – Treating
Dress your pet up in something they are comfortable in and join the fun! If you have friends with pets have a pet-themed Halloween party. But make sure to keep your dog away from any stray candy lying around.
Go on an Autumn Hike
The changing colors, falling leaves, and beautiful sunsets make for an amazing experience for both you and your dog. The cool autumn weather will refresh both of you and get you ready for a warm blanket later in the evening.
Pro Tip: Make sure to bring water for hydration and a car blanket in case the trail gets muddy.