Autumn Awareness

Well folks, the Swallows have all gone from our skies, chasing the warmer temperatures, which can only mean one thing: Autumn is here in Blighty. I’ve noticed that there is a chill creeping in now when the sun sets and also first thing in the morning, though I must confess to making “mist plumes” with my breath in the cool air 🙂

Green-fingered sorts all over the country are tidying up and pruning in their gardens, so I thought I’d just refresh your memory’s on a few of the common plants, shrubs and trees to be aware of if you’re a pooch parent.

Foxgloves ……

Foxgloves are a beautiful wild flower (or weed, depending on your point of view) and I’ve spent many a pleasant hour over the summer watching different species of Bee disappear into their deep trumpets in search of polleny treasure. Their beauty has now faded and it’s time to cut their withered leaves and stalks down and gather their seeds, ready for them to reappear nest year. Dogs do like to snuffle around our feet – I’m sure mine think they’re helping me as they mooch near me, messing up bits I’ve just piled together – and see if there’s anything worth munching. There’s nothing better than an unexpected snack, right? Unfortunately, if Fido does ingest any leaves or seeds from Foxgloves, they are toxic and may make them feel rather nauseous and/or vomit.

There’s no denying that Laurel and Privet make gorgeously dense, verdant hedges or garden features; Privet always looks stunning when professionally topiarised (ooh, get me, that’s a posh non-vet word!). I can’t imagine why any dog would want to munch on these leaves – then again, I can’t see why they’d want to eat any plants, but they do. Luckily, your hound would need to eat a pretty large quantity of Laurel or Privet to feel any harmful effects. If you are in the garden and discover that your dog has helped him/herself to some garden goodies, don’t feel stressed out unduly; just get in touch with the Saint Leonard Veterinary Centre team and we’ll advise you accordingly.

The Holly and the Ivy…….

One thing that grows at a tremendous rate of knots is Ivy; I swear you can see it happen before your very eyes! There’s absolutely no way you can go a season without cutting this back, although I try and leave it as long as I can because birds love nesting in its thick foliage. Both the leaves and berries can affect the canine Gastro-Intestinal (GI) tract if they’re eaten, and if your pooch is an avid fan of rolling, then Ivy can cause dermatitis too.

Having mentioned Ivy, I can’t go without mentioning Holly can I; especially if I’m really hammering home the seasonal theme of this blog? Now that we’re mid-autumn our thoughts begin, tentatively, to turn to winter and Christmas. There, I’ve said it – the “C” word; sorry folks! Apart from the “Man in Red”, Rudolphs red nose and Robin’s red breast, what else is synonymous with the festive period? Yep, you got it; Holly and its red berries. Nature often signifies danger through vibrancy, either in colour or in pattern, and Holly’s bright red berries can cause a whole heap of trouble for dogs if eaten. As well as an upset tum, ingestion of Holly berries can cause tremors, loss of balance and seizures.

All the garden cuttings (and dropped leaves from any trees you may have too) need disposing of, and I would urge you to do so promptly. Foliage rots down thanks to microbes, and increased levels of mould and Fungi are potential health hazards for your dog. If you plan to burn the accumulated cuttings please remember to check in the piles first, in case any wildlife is using them for shelter and warmth.

It isn’t just in their home territory that dogs encounter hazards though; out and about on walkies sees them exposed to a variety of potential nasties.

The Trees ………

Horse Chestnut trees really do cut a striking figure in autumn as their broad leaves produce a whole spectrum of colour to behold, from rich gold through to deep russet browns. I used to love gathering up a hoard of conkers when I was younger, eager to thread them onto string and play numerous games of conkers in the playground with my school pals. Due to ripe conkers resembling small pebbles, dogs will often pick them up and have a play with them. Just please keep an eye out that Fido doesn’t eat them as they can be harmful if eaten in quantity, with diarrhoea and vomiting being common symptoms.

Beech trees are dropping their seeds (beechnuts) like billy-o right now and if your fur-baby decides to chow down on these, be prepared for them to suffer GI upsets! Also be alert on your walks to avoid the casing of beechnuts; they’re rather sharp underfoot, and can bruise and/or cut delicate paws.

About now on the New Forest, pigs are turned out loose for “Pannage”, where they get to gorge on the abundant supply of Acorns on the forest floor. Not only is this a rich source of nutrients for the piggies, it prevents the ponies eating them. Acorns are poisonous to equines, especially if they’re still green. Dogs also suffer discomfort if they eat acorns, thanks to the tannic acid in them which causes diarrhoea and vomiting. If your dog eats a lot of them it can cause kidney disease and potentially block the intestines, requiring surgical intervention.

“Red for Danger” rings true again with regard to Yew berries. If your hound eats these they may experience dizziness, abdominal cramps, increased salivation and vomiting; not pleasant, I’m sure you’ll agree, and the foliage of the Yew is even more toxic to dogs than the berries. Yew ingestion can be fatal, with death occurring suddenly with no warning, and without showing symptoms. If you have any shadow of doubt that your beloved canine companion has eaten Yew then please call the SLVC team straight away. We would much rather be safe than sorry and check your furry family member over just to be sure that they’re ok, as I’m sure you would be.

Wrap up warm, it will be winter soon!!!

The main thing is to be aware of potential hazards and keep a watchful eye on your dog as they happily snuffle about; then you and man’s best friend will be fine. Remember to wrap yourselves up warm (and your dog too!) and make the most of the great outdoors at this wonderful time of year. The Saint Leonard Veterinary Centre team are huge fans of good old “Doctor Green” and love nothing more than enjoying the great scenery we have here in Derbyshire.

Until next time; stay safe, stay well, and be happy 🙂