Keeping Your Dog Safe This Fall
Fall is here! It’s the season of apple and pumpkin picking, Halloween costumes, and of raking leaves into giant piles. (And then jumping into them, of course!) There’s no doubt that fall can be a fun and exciting time for everyone, including your dog. However, with the abundance of activities and agriculture, there are also some dangers to be aware of as you and your furry friend enjoy the season. Here’s what to look out for:
Acorns and Oak Leaves
While the trees in your yard are pretty and offer great shade, their leaves and acorns may be dangerous for your dog if consumed. Acorns are a choking and intestinal blockage hazard for dogs, so dog owners should make a habit of cleaning up fallen acorns or fencing off areas in the yard where they can be found. Not only are they a choking hazard, but oak acorns and young oak leaves also contain a chemical called gallotannin, which can cause severe gastrointestinal distress in dogs, including vomiting, lethargy, diarrhea, and damage to the liver and kidneys.
In addition to oaks, the leaves and bark of black locust trees, found in the southeastern U.S., can cause nausea, weakness, and depression in dogs if consumed. Horse owners should also be aware that red maple leaves are toxic to horses (although not to dogs and cats). If a horse consumes red maple leaves in large amounts, it can cause severe hemolytic anemia, resulting in weakness, pale gums, an elevated heart rate, and shock.
While leaf piles are fun to play in for people and pets alike, they can also house hidden dangers. Ticks, mites and other parasites can be lurking among the leaves, and spread a host of illnesses. Make sure your dog is up to date on all of his tick and flea medications, and check him for pests after each time he goes outside. Check out our past posts on ticks and fleas for more information on how to keep your dog safe from these miniscule menaces. Leaf piles can also provide a refuge for our next fall danger: snakes.
Fall is a time when snakes are on the move. As they prepare for their winter hibernation, snakes are particular ornery and prone to striking. Keep an eye out as you are walking with your dog, scanning for places where snakes could be hiding. Some areas of the country have particularly poisonous species of snakes, so make a point of learning what snakes are in your area, where they like to hide, and how to recognize them.
The autumn crocus (Colchicum autumnale) – not to be confused with the spring-blooming crocus plants that are part of the Iridaceae family – contain a toxic alkaloid called colchicine, which is poisonous to dogs. According to the Pet Poison Helpline, ingestion of this plant “can cause severe gastrointestinal signs (e.g., drooling, vomiting, gastrointestinal bleeding, bloody diarrhea, etc.), liver and kidney damage, respiratory failure, central nervous system signs (e.g., seizures), and even death.” Check to see if you have any around your house and set up a perimeter around them to keep your pup away. Your local DogWatch Dealer can help you decide on the best hidden fence option to keep your pup out of these flowers and other poisonous plants in your yard.
Fall is a popular time for people to change out their antifreeze. Antifreeze contains ethylene glycol, which tastes sweet to dogs and cats but can be deadly to them if ingested even in small amounts. As a result, contact should be avoided at all costs. Keep your dog inside when you’re changing your antifreeze, and make sure to clean up any puddles of antifreeze that may have collected. When your dog is outside, keep an eye out on him, making sure he’s not drinking from puddles that antifreeze could have leached into. Make sure to know the signs of antifreeze poisoning, so you can rush your dog to the vet if you suspect he has ingested some, as immediate treatment with an antidote is vital to your dog’s survival. Signs of antifreeze poisoning can include: acting “drunk” or uncoordinated, excessive thirst, and lethargy.
Compost Bins or Piles
It’s great to do your part to help the environment by composting, but these piles can be dangerous for your dogs. The decaying matter in them can contain tremorgenic mycotoxins, which can result in agitation, hyperthermia, hyper-responsiveness, panting, drooling, and vomiting, and can progress to severe central nervous system issues, such as lack of coordination, tremors, and seizures. We suggest setting up a DogWatch Hidden Fence system around your compost pile to keep your dog from getting into it. If your dog DOES get into the compost pile and begins showing any of these symptoms, make sure to get him to the vet, as immediate treatment is likely necessary.
While there are plenty of great, edible wild mushrooms growing this time of year, there are also some toxic and even hallucinogenic ones. While we can learn to recognize the difference, to most dogs, they’re all the same. Sadly, ingesting wild mushrooms can lead to severe health problems from dogs, and even death. Mushroom toxicity in dogs was in news last year when Dwyane “The Rock” Johnson reported that his French bulldog puppy Brutus passed away after eating a mushroom in his yard. Veterinarian Dr. Justine A. Lee recommends bringing your dog straight to the vet if you observe him eating ANY mushrooms, as it is so hard to tell which mushrooms are poisonous and which are not. Your vet will most likely want to pump the dog’s stomach to make sure that the mushrooms get out of the dog’s system.
As the weather gets cooler, the rodents start making their way inside, which means time to bring out the rodenticides and mouse traps. Rodenticides, if consumed directly OR indirectly (if your dog eats a mouse that had consumed rodenticides) can be fatal to a dog. If you suspect your dog has ingested rodenticides, get your dog to the vet immediately, and make sure to let the vet know exactly what products you (or your neighbor) have been using. Mousetraps obviously pose the risk of injury if a curious pup sticks a paw in. Make sure to keep any mouse or rat poison and traps away from your pets, and restrict your pets’ access to these dangers. A DogWatch Indoor Boundary system is an effective way to keep your pets out of dangerous areas like this.
As you store your summer clothes away, be mindful that moth balls can be fatal to dogs and cats if ingested. A dog who has ingested mothballs may display symptoms such as vomiting, anemia, lethargy and possibly kidney or liver damage, and should be treated by a vet immediately. Older mothballs containing naphthalene are considered the most toxic but modern mothballs, which contain paradichlorobenzene (PDB) can still cause illness in pets if ingested.
With Halloween and the holidays approaching, chocolate abounds. While we may love to eat it, it is a well-known hazard for dogs. Chocolate contains the methylxanthine theobromine, which is toxic to dogs. Make sure to keep the candy dish out of your pup’s reach, and make sure any children in the house know not to feed him any candy. As little as one ounce of baking chocolate or eight ounces of milk chocolate can make a 50 pound dog very sick. Consumption of chocolate can cause vomiting, increased body temperature, tremors, seizures and heart and respiratory failure in dogs; like with other toxins, a dog should be treated by a vet immediately if a significant amount of chocolate has been consumed.
For further information, or for any concerns over a substance your dog may have ingested, we encourage you to contact your veterinarian.
From all of us at DogWatch, we wish you and your dog a happy, healthy fall!
Photo Credits (images have been cropped):
“fallen leaves” by Jill Meinert (CC BY 2.0)
“Crocus” by mkisono (CC BY 2.0)
“Mushrooms” by Kalle Gustafsson (CC BY 2.0)
“Kit Kat Bars for Halloween” by slgckgc (CC BY 2.0)