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Fall's Pet Health Hazards

This article originally appeared on my ongoing series of articles for Flexcin International, Inc as Fall's Pet Health Hazards   While the colors of fall may be visually appealing for people, the seasonal changes associated with fall can create health hazards for our pets. Darkness - In 2012, Daylight Savings Time (DST) ends on November 4.  This means fewer hours of daylight and the earlier start of an evening. Thus, we end up walking or exercising our canine companions in the darkness of early morning or evening.  Reduced light makes it harder for automobile drivers to see pets in driveways, sidewalks, and roads.  Having spent many years in emergency veterinary practice, I've observed too many dogs and cats being injured after being hit by a car during twilight hours. If you are going to take your pet out, keep them under control using a leash and collar or chest harness.  Properly identify your dog or cat with up-to-date tags and a microchip to improve the likelihood of a safe return should an escape occur. Leaves - Fall brings the dropping of tree leaves, so we take efforts to remove them from blanketing our yards. Leaf blowers can create startling noises that may drive your pets into seclusion or motivate them to run from your property.  Additionally, gas powered blowers spew toxic fumes harmful to your pet if inhaled. Piles of leaves can also contain moisture that contributes to the decay of the plant material and promotes growth of bacteria and mold.  Decomposition exudes either an appealing or repulsive smell.  If your pet directly ingests decaying leaves or picks up microorganisms/toxins on their paws and licks them, then digestive tract upset (vomit, diarrhea, decreased appetite, etc.) could ensue. Outdoor fall clean up may prompt the burning of dried leaves and other plant material, which releases smoke and other plant based oils (poison ivy, etc.) that can irritate your pet’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. Plants and Mushrooms - A seasonally appealing blooming flower commonly associated with fall is the Chrysanthemum (Mum).  If your dog or cat ingests the mum’s flower, stems, or leaves, then significant toxicity can occur.  Clinical signs of mum indigestion include:
  • ataxia (stumbling)
  • dermatitis (skin inflammation)
  • ptyalism (increased salivation)
  • vomit
  • diarrhea
Other fall blooming plants that are toxic to dogs and cats include: Fortunately, there aresome lovely non-toxic fall blooming plants (yet I don’t recommend you let your canine or feline companion eat them): Mushrooms often pop up in yards during the fall.  Fortunately, most mushrooms are non-toxic to cats and dogs.  Yet, the Amanita phalloides (death cap) causes severe liver toxicity if ingested.  It is very difficult to differentiate a toxic from a non-toxic variety, so it’s best to prevent your pet from consuming any wild growing mushrooms. Rodenticides - Rodenticides, also known as mice and rat poisons, are often put down in the fall as rodents seek shelter from the cooler temperatures.  They are extremely toxic to both dogs and cats if ingested.  Common rodenticides like D-Con contain Brodifacoum, an anti-coagulant which inhibits Vitamin K’s normal function in the blood clotting cascade.  Within one to seven days of ingestion, the blood does not properly clot and clinical signs of rodenticide poisoning appear, including:
  • lethargy
  • decreased appetite
  • pale mucous membranes (gums)
  • increased respiratory rate and effort
  • bruising
  • bloody feces
  • black, tar-like stools (from digested blood)
Other forms of mice and rat poisons may contain Cholecalciferol (Vitamin D3), have a different mechanism of action from Brodifacoum, and can cause kidney and liver failure, muscle weakness, seizures, and death. Since mice and rats can remove chunks of rodenticide from a container and transport them into a location accessible to other animals, it’s best to hire a professional team to rid your house of rodents instead of trying to do it yourself. With suspected or known toxicities, contact the board certified veterinary toxicologist who run the ASPCA’s Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435.  
Thank you for reading this article.  Your questions and comments are completely welcome (I’ll respond). Please feel free to communicate with me through Twitter (@PatrickMahaney) and follow my adventures in veterinary medicine by liking Patrick Mahaney: Veterinarian Acupuncture Pain Management for Your Pets on Facebook. Copyright of this article (2012) is owned by Dr Patrick Mahaney, Veterinarian and Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist. Republishing any portion of this article must first be authorized by Dr Patrick Mahaney. Requests for republishing must be approved by Dr Patrick Mahaney and received in written format.
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