Every season brings with it, its own series of changes; leaves turn from green to red and gold; the weather becomes cooler; and we begin to get ready for new festivals and holidays such as Halloween, Bonfire Night and Christmas. Each season also has its challenges for pets and pet owners, and Autumn is no different! Here we look at some things to be aware of in Autumn, to help you keep your cats and dogs happy and healthy throughout the season.
Poisonous Plants and Natural Hazards for Pets
Acorns & Conkers - Both acorns and conkers are toxic to dogs. It is rare that they cause poisoning, but stomach problems, blockages in the intestine and vomiting can all occur if your dog eats them. Be extra cautious of these when out on Autumn dog walks.
Autumn Crocuses - A beautiful flower, but toxic to animals including cats and dogs. Make sure you keep them away from this Autumn flowering plant on dog walks.
Hydrangeas - The bulbs of the Hydrangea are toxic to both cats and dogs so it’s best to keep your pets away from these as much as possible.
Mushrooms & Toadstools - Whilst some mushrooms are entirely safe for cats and dogs, there are many that aren’t. The main problem is that telling the safe ones form the poisonous ones can be extremely difficult. Try not to let your pets go near or eat any mushrooms growing in the wild or garden. Signs that your dog or cat have eaten a poisonous variety can vary greatly depending on the type of mushroom eaten, but can include vomiting, stomach upset, blood in their stools and even fits.
Blue-Green Algae - Blue-green algae can grow anywhere from late spring, all the the way up until, and through, Autumn. It is extremely toxic and can kill pets, both cats and dogs, if they eat it. Blue-green algae is a tiny organism that alone cannot be seen by the naked eye. However, when it clumps together it tends to look like a scum on the water and this is what you should look out for. If you have a dog who likes a dip, take care around lakes and any other non flowing fresh water where it is most common - if you’re unsure about the look of the water, don’t allow them to swim or drink from it.
Fallen Leaves - One of the prettiest signs of Autumn is the changing of leaves from green to golden tones, but fallen leaves can actually pose a threat to dogs. Bacteria and mould can both develop in them over time which can lead to gastrointestinal problems. A walk through the woods and a run through the leaves may be fun, but try not to let your dog eat or chew them.
Anti-Freeze - Autumn usually brings with it the first frosty morning of the year. It is always essential at this time of year to be cautious of anti-freeze around pets. Be really careful when using it and do your best not to spill. Wash down your driveway if you suspect any leaks or spillages have occurred. Antifreeze is enticing to cats and dogs as it is rather sweet-tasting, but also incredibly poisonous with even a tiny amount causing serious problems; sometimes even fatal.
Chocolate - Chocolate and sweets are a minor hazard all year round, but with halloween just around the corner you may find that your dog is brought into contact with human treats and sweets more often. Chocolate is especially toxic to dogs and cats, but other sweets containing Xylitol also pose a risk. Keep all human food and sweets away from pets and ensure your cats and dogs only eat their own food and treats.
Fireworks and Other Noises in the Autumn
Autumn brings with it two of the more noisy festivals of the year that may cause stress and anxiety in cats, dogs and other pets. But don’t worry, there are some things we can do to help our pets deal with fireworks and unusual visitors at Halloween.
Socialise pets from a young age - Socialising our kittens and puppies from a young age can help them get used to strange situations, noises and people as they grow up.
Make sure your pet has a safe space - One of the reasons crate training is so important for puppies and dogs is that it gives them a safe space to retreat to when they want to feel safe. Make sure your dogs and cats both have places of their own that they can easily get to when they feel more anxious or stressed than usual. A hooded cat bed or cat tree with hideaway is perfect for cats who love the privacy of a covered sleeping area. Remember, cats like to be high up and feel safer from a height. Provide a tall scratch post tree for them which they can retreat to when they want to feel at ease.
Try to prepare pets for bonfire night in advance - If you have an adult pet who you know gets anxious at the noise of fireworks, or strange visitors on Halloween, try to prepare them for the event by introducing strange noises to them. A special noises and sounds CD can help teach them not to be scared. The good thing about this is that you can change the volume of the sounds, gradually getting louder. Hopefully it will make the actual events somewhat easier for them to cope with. Rewards and praise when they show calm behaviours will help instil this behaviour in the future.
Use a calming plug-in diffuser - Pet calming products can greatly influence stress levels in our pets. Products by Pet Remedy and Feliway come in a number of forms: plug-in diffusers, sprays and pet wipes for different applications. Try plugging a diffuser in a week or two before bonfire night or Halloween to help keep them settled and stress-free.
Exercising Pets in the Autumn
Exercise in and of itself may not seem like a hazard, but fewer daylight hours and colder, wet weather can bring with them one or two minor risks. Adverse weather may mean that you can’t get out for walks as often or for as long as usual which could affect your dog’s weight. You may need to monitor their weight and reduce their food intake if needed.
If you are walking your dog in the dark due to short daylight hours, be really aware of your dog’s visibility. Try to find a dog coat with reflective strips and consider a light to clip to your dog’s collar or lead to make them as easy to spot as possible. Ruffwear make a great range of dog coats with reflective panels and the Beacon Dog Safety Light that can be attached to a number of your dog’s accessories in low lighting.
Enjoy Autumn with your cats and dogs
If you follow our hints and tips there is no reason not to enjoy and make the most of this beautiful time of year with your dogs and cats. Autumn dog walks can be so much fun for you and your dog, so get out and make the most of the gorgeous golden scenery!