Author: Alison Laurie-Chalmers, Senior Consultant, Crown Vets Inverness
The change of season into the autumn months does mean a few unexpected hazards for your pets.
Here are some tips to make sure your pets stay safe.
For dog owners, one of the main things to consider is that the nights are "drawing in" and it is getting dark in the early evenings now. You may have to change your usual dog walking route from now and also carry a good torch and wear some form of high- visibility clothing and provide your dog with either a "be- seen", flashing collar light on his collar, or use a high visibility dog collar or coat. Also ensure for both your safety that you have some a form of communication and identification with you and that your dog’s Microchip contact details are all current and are up to date.
Conkers if eaten can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal discomfort and tremors. Also, if they are eaten whole there is a potential risk of an intestinal blockage.
Acorns can also pose a hazard to dogs if eaten due to a chemical within the acorn called Tannic Acid which can cause intestinal upset, lethargy and also damage to Liver and Kidneys if ingested. Acorns if ingested can also cause an intestinal blockage too.
The changing colours of the leaves are one of the pleasures of autumn but when the fallen leaves are rotting on the ground, they can cause some problems for our pets. Damp, decomposing leaves, particularly when piled up in corners, can actually be a haven for some bacteria and moulds. If your pet licks, chews and ingests such micro-organisms on these fallen leaves this could lead to digestive problems such as a loss of appetite, vomiting and diarrhoea.
If you choose to burn fallen vegetation and leaves, then make sure first that there are is no unexpected wildlife hiding under the leaves and that your own pet is well out of the way of the resulting smoke, as some plant-based oils from the burning vegetation can irritate your pet’s nose and eyes.
There are also number of common plants and mushrooms that can cause health problems for your pets in the Autumn months: Chrysanthemum plants for example, are a welcome addition to any garden in autumn but you should keep your pets away from their stems or leaves as can be toxic to dogs and cats, which could result in contact skin irritations, or if eaten cause increased levels of saliva, loss of balance, vomiting and diarrhoea. Other popular plants that have a similar toxic affect if ingested include the autumn crocuses and clematis. Mushrooms also tend to sprout up much more during autumn months. Fortunately, most that grow in our gardens are non-toxic but it is best to discourage your pets from eating them as some mushrooms can be toxic and eating those can be very harmful to your pet.
A fall in temperatures can encourage mice and rats to search for indoor shelter, and some people may be tempted to use poisons to deter any vermin. These poisons, called rodenticides, however will also be highly dangerous and potentially life threatening to your pet. Symptoms can include lethargy, pale gums, blood discharge in faeces and sadly sometimes death due to internal haemorrhage in some severe cases. If you suspect your dog or cat has eaten mouse or rat poison, do contact your vet immediately, as this is an emergency situation.
On Halloween night pet dogs and cats should be kept inside for their own safety. A lot of strangely dressed people will be guising, so do put your pets in a quiet separate room with the door shut, perhaps with some soothing background music playing and with a member of the household with them to prevent them from becoming scared and escaping into the night. Keeping them in a closed quiet room away from any potential strange guisers hopefully will also minimize the fright they might get from loud voices and strange costumes. Also, keep your pets feeding regime the same and don't be tempted to feed any unusual foods to your pet at Halloween. Your pet's digestion cannot cope with chocolate, nuts, corn, pumpkin and sweets containing high sugar or artificial sweeteners containing Xylitol! So please be sure that they are kept well away from your pets. Also, "Glow sticks" if chewed can also cause mouth irritation, excessive drooling and vomiting, so keep them out of pet’s reach.
Finally, fireworks are very common throughout this time of year. Many people will be attending Halloween parties and it is almost inevitable that fireworks will be let off on Halloween night as well as on bonfire night, so take the usual advised steps to keep your pets safe, settled, calm and happy during this potentially scary time for them.
For good professional advice always contact the practice if you have any concerns.