There is no denying that autumn is a beautiful season with the spectacular colours seen on the leaves, having dress up fun with friends and family on Halloween, and celebrating Bonfire night with sparklers and Toffee Apples. For our beloved animals however, there are a few dangers lurking around the corner so we need to take a few precautions on their behalf.
(the seeds of Horse Chestnut trees) gave me many hours of playground pleasure as a schoolboy, but they’re not so nice if our pooches decide to partake of them. Most dogs are unaffected after eating them or only develop mild gastrointestinal symptoms; serious cases of poisoning are thankfully very rare. The most common symptom of covert conker chomping is vomiting, although abdominal discomfort, diarrhoea, ataxia (stumbling or wobbling), fever, depression, and tremors/shaking can also happen.
If your dog prefers to wolf (no pun intended) the conker down whole rather than chew it first, then there is a potential risk of the gastrointestinal tract becoming blocked. Clearly this is very serious and could well need surgical intervention, but as I say, it is very rare.
Oak trees and their seeds, Acorns, can also pose a hazard to dogs. In this case it is a chemical within the acorn called Tannic Acid that is the toxin; it can cause damage to both Kidneys and Liver if ingested. Clinical signs are typically a painful abdomen, vomiting and/or diarrhoea, and lethargy. As with conkers, acorns can potentially cause intestinal blockages too.
The changing leaves are lovely to see and great fun for humans to kick when they drop to the ground, but it is when they’re on the ground that they can cause problems for pets. Mould and bacteria thrive when the leaves become damp and are piled up and if your pet ingests these micro-organisms it can cause diarrhoea, vomiting, and loss of appetite in them.
A lot of us pile these leaves up prior to burning them and if this is something you do then please remember to keep your pet out of the way; some plant based oils can be irritating to their delicate noses and eyes. What is a nuisance to us can be very attractive to other small furries, so if you plan to burn your leaves or hedge trimmings etc check for hedgehogs and other creatures that may be sheltering in them.
Chrysanthemums are another of autumn’s treasures and there is no denying their beauty in sometimes sparse looking gardens at this time of year. However, these blooms (or rather their stems and leaves) need to be kept away from your cats and dogs. The leaves of Chrysanthemums pose a toxic risk commonly seen as irritated skin, increased levels of salivation, loss of balance, and diarrhoea and vomiting. Autumn Crocus and Clematis are also hazardous to our pets.
The next hazard I want to point out to you is thankfully well within our ability to control; safety when out walking. As the hours of daylight rapidly shrink our working hours unfortunately don’t, so we often have to walk our pooches in the dark or in diminished light. High visibility jackets for us and leads, collars and jackets for Fido can all go a long way to help us be seen by road users, reducing the risk of an unfortunate accident occurring. If your pet should go astray for whatever reason then please remember to get them micro-chipped and ensure that the details are up-to-date, and also have a tag on their collars when they’re out and about.
I mentioned Halloween and Bonfire Night celebrations in the opening paragraph and at these gatherings our children often like to wear luminous necklaces or bracelets, and wave glow sticks around. The luminescent chemicals are very irritating to pets’ gums; commonly causing our fur-babies to dribble, froth, or foam at the mouth (very ghoulish, but very unpleasant for them). Vomiting and /or stomach pain can also happen if these items are eaten by our pets. Luckily, although the signs are visually dramatic, ingestion rarely causes any significant problems for pooch or Kitty.
Unfortunately the next hazard is a lot more serious for Cats and Dogs if they ingest it; Rat and Mice poison. The decreasing temperatures in autumn often encourage rodents into our gardens and homes as they seek shelter and warmth from the elements. Rodenticides (poisons which kill mice, rats and other small creatures) may deter such unwelcome infestations but they can cause life threatening toxicity in our cats and dogs. A lot of commercially available products contain ingredients that act as anti-coagulants, i.e. they interfere with the ability of blood to clot.
If these poisons are ingested, clinical signs can take anywhere from 1-7 days to develop. Things to watch out for if you use these products are lethargy, decreased appetite, pale gums, increased breathing rate and/or laboured breathing, bruising, blood in their faeces (poo), or black, tar-like faeces (from digested blood, which may indicate internal bleeding has occurred). If you have any concerns at all then please contact the team here at Saint Leonard Veterinary Centre and we can soon take a look at your pet for you.
Treatment would routinely involve giving them the antidote for the specific chemicals in the poison, but severe cases may need transfusions of Plasma, or whole blood.
We are always here for free advice if you need any at Saint Leonard Veterinary Centre.
Until next time; stay safe, stay well, and be happy 🙂