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Ahh, fall. Who doesn’t love the crisp, cool air, the crunching of colorful leaves underfoot and the reintroduction of pumpkin spice lattes.
With all its pleasures, fall also comes with some hazards for your pets that require extra vigilance.
Light up the darkness
With fewer daylight hours, it’s likely you’ll be walking your dog during the darker morning or evening times. Consider a reflective collar, harness or leash for dogs and cats that go outside after dark. There’s also some evidence that dogs can suffer from “Winter Blues” or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a form of depression which occurs when sunshine is scarce and daytime light levels are low, just like people do. Getting outside during daylight hours will help both you and your pup deal with shorter days.
Keep your pets warm
Some long-haired dogs and cats will be fine in cooler weather (here’s looking at you, Siberian Huskies and Maine Coons) but others may need a sweater or rain coat or even booties as the weather gets colder and wetter. Whether your pets need this extra protection really depends on how cold it is, their breed, age and if they are acclimated to cold weather. And if it’s cold, don’t leave pets out for a prolonged period.
Keep Halloween candy and other fall treats out of reach
With Halloween and Thanksgiving holidays on the horizon, fall usually means more chocolate and candy in the home. Keep treats put away and out of reach. Candy, especially chocolate which is toxic to both dogs and cats, poses a hazard to curious pets with a sweet tooth. Xylitol, contained in many sugar-free foods, gum and toothpaste, is especially toxic. Other favorite fall foods to keep out of your pets’ reach include cooked bones, raw bread dough, nutmeg, macadamia nuts, walnuts, raisins, garlic and onion.
Keep school supplies secured to avoid choking hazards
It’s back-to-school time, and families have probably already stocked up on items such as glue sticks, pencils and magic markers. Chewing on these items is mildly toxic and could cause gastrointestinal upset and blockages if ingested. Gorilla Glue is especially hazardous if consumed. Ingestion of foreign objects tops the list of emergency room visits for both puppies and kittens.
Avoid household poisons or keep them locked up
Fall is the time of year when people start using antifreeze for their cars and think about using rat poison for pests that may be looking for a warmer place to spend the winter. Pets may be attracted to these highly poisonous substances, so find a nontoxic alternative or make sure they are well out of reach. See a full list of common pet poisons here.
Be aware of seasonal allergies
Ragweed, mold, dust and pollen are some fall allergens that may cause itching and sneezing in cats and dogs as well as humans. Talk to your vet about a good treatment plan for your pet’s allergies.
Don’t leave yard hazards unchecked
After a summer full of activity, make sure your yard is buttoned down for the cooler months by securing any fencing, removing choking hazards, uprooting any toxic plants and cleaning up any rotten fruit from trees. Be sure to empty any water-filled vessels that could be breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
Avoid hunting accidents
If you enjoy taking your dog out for a hike to see the fall colors, be aware of when and where hunting season is open and consider buying a florescent vest so your dog is not mistaken for prey.
Wild mushrooms – for human experts only
Fall is prime mushroom season and while knowledgeable human mushroom pickers should be able to pick out the 1% of mushrooms that are toxic, dogs and cats cannot. The highly toxic mushrooms can cause life-threatening problems in pets and people. Three types are especially problematic because they have a fishy odor – the Amanita (death cap), Inocybe and Clitocybe. To be safe, remove all mushrooms from your outdoor spaces and keep dogs on a leash in areas where any wild mushrooms may be growing. See an infographic on how to identify the toxic mushrooms.