The Fall season is, maybe, our favorite time of the year. Heat waves give way to cool mornings and spectacular afternoons, football is on the tube, anticipation for the Holiday Season begins to take full effect, and the smattering of an experienced painter shows up in the form of the leaves on the trees. We tend to spend a lot more time outdoors during the fall, enjoying time with family, friends, and of course, our pets. While this time of year can be seen as perfect, it is not without its potential threats to our furry friends and while we promote doing everything possible with your pet, we also want everyone to be safe. For that reason, we put together a list of things you may or may not have thought about in regard to hazards for your pet in the upcoming Fall season.
1. Fall Leaves
Fall brings a change across the country that results in magnificent splashes of brilliant colored leaves which coerce “oohs” and “ahhhs” from our hearts and the heat-toned colors seem to warm us to the soul. Those splendid leaves eventually fall to the ground and the scene turns to afternoons spent raking and blowing the nuisances into drab brown piles. There are a couple of issues that arise for our pets in these leaf piles of which we should be aware.
First, the leaves trap and hold moisture creating a breeding ground for mold and other fungus, including mushrooms. While a pile of freshly raked leaves can be an absolutely wonderful play-thing for our pets, leaves that have set for a while collecting moisture can become dangerous. Pets can ingest the mold particles or may want to eat the mushrooms resulting in poisoning.
The second danger to be aware of is the potential threat of a snake hiding in the leaves. Fall is a time when snakes tend to be out and about, sunning themselves to get warm and looking for food to store up reserves for the coming winter. A pile of moist leaves on a warm afternoon can be a perfect hiding place for the slithering reptiles to hunt for small rodents or take a rest to warm themselves somewhere they don’t feel exposed. Copperhead snakes are venomous and are super adept to staying camouflaged against the backdrop of leaves.
2. Shorter Days
The long days of Summer give way slowly through the Fall to shorter and shorter days. That, combined with with the time change of Daylight Savings, means that for most of us that work, we will be driving to work in the mornings at sunrise, and driving home at dusk. What does this mean for your pet? It means that if you are one that walks your dog daily, most likely you are going to be doing at least part of that walk in the dark. Both you are your pet are more vulnerable, for obvious reasons, and extra care should be taken on your daily dusky excursion including using items like reflective collars and leashes for your dog, a headlamp and reflective clothing for you, and maybe even go as far as an LED collar to make sure that you and your pet stay visible and safe.
3. Significant Changes in Daytime Temperature
One of the best things about Fall, in our opinion, are the cool mornings. However, at least where we live, the temperature during the day can change sometimes by up to as much as 30 – 35 degrees. That means it could be 50 when you leave your home and reach 80 by the afternoon. On top of being impossible to dress appropriately for a day long outing, it means you and your pet are susceptible to getting fooled by the temp. Everyone seems to be very aware of the dangers of keeping your pet locked in a car in the summer, but what you need to remember is that temperatures in the Fall can still be fatal in parts of the country, even on days that start with a nip in the air. If you are going to have to leave your pet in your vehicle for extended periods of time, at least make sure to check the estimated highs for the day and make sure they have access to water. Of course, we suggest not ever leaving your pet in your vehicle for any extended period of time because it can be both hazardous to their health and the well-being of your upholstery.
On the flip-side, be sure to make yourself aware of the nighttime lows in temperature as you may need to bring your normally outdoor pet into a garage or laundry room to keep them comfortable or at least provide them with substantial insulation and heat in their outdoor setting.
4. The Holiday Season
For most, Fall carries us into the Holiday Season, first with Halloween and then into Thanksgiving. This is a great time of year filled with excitement, joy, family, candy, and lots of delicious food and treats. For your pet, it is a minefield of delectable hazardous treats and potential strain on a pets mental health.
First, let’s break down Halloween. All Hallow’s Eve is regarded by most as a festive fun time to have costume parties, put up decorations, watch scary movies and experience a chill not brought on by the cooler temperatures. For our pets, the time of year can be extremely stressful. The night of Halloween for the faithful and loyal family dog or cat can turn into a confusing time of multiple doorbell rings, loud parties, lots of unknown guests, spooky decorations, and tempting table fare left out for the taking. Just be aware of the emotional stress this can cause your pet and try to provide them with a safe place in your home to retreat and make sure you store your child’s candy safely out of reach of your pet.
Next, we can look at Thanksgiving. Generally, Thanksgiving is not quite as stressful on our pets from a decoration standpoint but the temptation in the kitchen and at the table can be especially inviting. Remember that sugary goodies, while acceptable to us in moderation, can be extremely harmful to our pets. If you must share the Thanksgiving meal with your pets, please just be mindful of what you are feeding to them. A pretty safe test for what to feed your pet can be to ask yourself, “would a wild omnivore eat this?” and if the answer is yes, you are probably okay. Turkey (in moderation and without the bones) and ham are fairly safe, while items like sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce can be hazardous because of the pesky sugars they contain. And remember that anything outside your pet’s normal diet can cause digestive issues.
5. Seasonal Household Items
Two highly toxic items primarily come to mind when considering their Fall seasonal uses. First is ANTI-FREEZE. Every year there are over 10,000 accidental pet poisonings from anti-freeze. Just three tablespoons of the item we use to keep our cars running through the colder months is all it takes to be fatal to a medium size dog. And the big problem…pets love it. They are attracted by the liquid’s sweet taste.
The second household item to be very aware of are Rodenticides. As the weather turns cooler, we generally see an influx of pesky vermin trying to stay warm in the comfort of our nicely heated homes. Often poisons are put out in various areas of the house or garage to keep the mice at bay. However dangerous, these poisons can also be attractive to our pets and extra caution needs to be taken to make sure our furry family members don’t find their way to them. If you do have a pet that ingests poison, call your veterinarian immediately and assess the situation. The ASPCA provides steps to follow if your pet has been poisoned and you can find those steps here http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/what-do-if-your-pet-poisoned
This is not a comprehensive list of everything that may be dangerous to our pets during this time of year but hopefully it will make you aware that, in the same way the cooler temperatures require us to adjust what we wear on a daily basis, the changing seasons also bring new challenges in keeping our pets safe. So go out, enjoy this time of year with your pets and have a wonderful and safe Fall season.