Fall is my favorite season, as I always look forward to cooler temperatures, changing leaf colors, and the sense that Southern California might actually get some rain sometime soon. Having grown up in New Jersey, my perspective of fall is very East Coast traditional. Now that I am a southern California dweller, I appreciate the more subtle changes fall brings.
As goes with every season, there are obvious and hidden pet dangers associated with many aspects of nature’s changing climate.
Use Caution During Outdoor Activities in Low Light or Darkness
Fall’s waning light and the loss of an hour associated with Daylight Savings Time forces owners to take their canine companions for elimination or exercise excursions in the darkness of early morning or evening.
Reduced light also makes it more challenging for drivers to see pets in driveways, sidewalks, and next to roads. Having practiced emergency veterinary medicine for years, I’ve seen the unfortunate trend of more dogs and cats being hit by a car or incurring other injuries during twilight hours.
Always maintain control while walking your dog by using a leash and collar or chest harness with an identifying tag or embroidered with your pooch’s name and your phone number. Additionally, have your veterinarian implant a microchip into your dog that is always kept up to date with your current contact information.
Prevent Your Pet’s Access to the Elements of Fall Yard Clean Up
Deciduous trees like maple, oak, and others drop their leaves every fall, which forces us to undertake significant efforts to remove the blanketing of color from our yards.
Moisture seeping into piles of leaves promotes the growth of bacteria and mold, which exudes either an appealing or repulsive smell pending your dog’s preferences. If your pooch directly ingests decaying leaves or licks his paws after a romp in the leaves, microorganisms or other toxins can cause digestive tract upset (vomit, diarrhea, decreased appetite, etc.).
Leaf blowers create startling noises that can drive your pets into seclusion or motivate them to flee from your property. Gas-powered blowers may leak fuel, oil, antifreeze, and other substances which can cause toxicity should they be consumed by our pets.
Outdoor fall clean up may involve the burning of leaves and other plant material, which releases smoke and plant based oils (poison ivy, etc.) that can irritate your dog’s eyes, nose, throat, lungs, and skin.
The best safety practice is to keep your pets separate from your yard work and safely confined inside.
Prevent Your Pet From Eating Fall-Blooming Plants
If you’re into gardening, you’re likely planning your crop of fall plantings. Take time to consider that some of your favorite fall plants can have a toxic effect on your pet.
The Chrysanthemum (mum) is a fall-blooming flower with flowers, stems, and leaves having toxic effects in cats and dogs when ingested; salivation, vomit, diarrhea, stumbling, and mucus membrane (gums) and skin irritation can ensue. Meadow Saffron/Autumn Crocus and Clematis also can cause toxixity.
Prioritize Pet Safety Related to Rodenticides
Colder climates drive rodents to seek shelter. Our homes, garages, sheds, and other protective spots are all targets for rodents to build their nests. Rodenticides (poisons that kill mice, rats, etc.) deter vermin infestations, but consumption of these poisons by dogs and cats leads to life-threatening toxicity.
Brodifacoum is the active ingredient in many common rodenticides (D-Con, etc.), which inhibits Vitamin K’s normal function in the blood clotting cascade. One to seven days after Brodifacoum ingestion, blood improperly clots and leads to clinical signs of lethargy, anorexia (reduced appetite), increased respiratory rate and effort, pale mucous membranes, bruising, and tar-like stools (from digested blood).
Other common rodenticides contain Cholecalciferol (Vitamin D3), which causes kidney and liver failure, muscle weakness, seizures, and death.
Instead of addressing any rodent-prevention needs yourself, hire a professional service using pet-safe methods that won’t harm your companion animals.
With any suspected or known toxicities, immediately contact your veterinarian or emergency veterinary hospital. The ASPCA’s Poison Control Center (888-426-4435) or Pet Poison Helpline (800-213-6680) are always available to help pet owners work through toxicity cases and determine if medical treatment is needed.
Thank you for reading this article. Your constructive comments are welcome (although I may not respond).