Perils for Paws and Tummies whilst Out and About in Autumn

Nothing beats kicking the rainbow coloured mounds of fallen leaves around whilst out on a walk with my dogs. I love it when I can hear them rustle and crunch underfoot; it takes me back to the carefree days of childhood 🙂

It isn’t just us humans that love disturbing fallen leaves (and foraging the last of the Blackberries and Rosehips from hedgerows); dogs love nothing more than having a good old grub around in the undergrowth. Luckily, Rosehips and blackberries aren’t poisonous to your dog, although over-indulging may give them a bad case of gas and looser-than-usual bowels the next day!

Autumn can be a capricious season – dry one moment, raining the next, so on fine days most of us will be out for “Operation: Prune the Hedges and Shrubs”. Can I just take this opportunity to stress the importance of clearing all the cuttings from the floor, especially if your hedges butt onto a public pavement?

Here at Saint Leonard Veterinary Centre we see lots of poor pooches limping through our practice doors that have thorns embedded in their paw pads. Holly leaves generally aren’t too bad; their prickles tend to stay attached and just leave Fido fed-up for a couple of days with a sore, bruised paw.

Hawthorn is a completely different beast though. The thorns/spines on this berry-bearing bush can grow to an inch or more in length, and often snap off in a dogs’ paw if pooch tramples on them. Most of the spikes we’ll be pruning won’t be so dramatic in size, but smaller prickles can get missed when you go to do “paw patrol” on your hound.

The worst thing is when your beloved fur-baby is obviously in distress, despite you having bathed the area and inspected it more closely than the countries’ most intrepid detective! Don’t panic, bring them along to us and we’ll soon have them back to their usual bouncy self – we have oodles of experience with this sort of case at SLVC.

Fallen Beech nuts and masts are rather pesky too; they’re very firm and unforgiving when trodden on, bruising pads with ease and the nuts are toxic to Fido too if he/she eats them.

Dogs are renowned for being opportunistic scavengers, and can’t resist scoffing whatever is directly in front of them – especially when they’re told not to! Acorns and Conkers are not mans’ best friends’ friend; not in the least.


Acorns contain Gallotannin in them, which if ingested can cause diarrhoea and vomiting, lethargy, pain, and Liver and Kidney damage in severe cases. We tend to treat affected dogs with an injection to make them forcibly sick and give charcoal to absorb any toxin within the gut. If the Acorns have been gobbled down whole they can block the intestines, and then surgery would be necessary.


Conkers have Aesculin within them, a chemical that is toxic to dogs. It isn’t just the conker that has Aesculin in it, all parts of the Horse Chestnut has it – including the leaves. Clearly, conkers pose a serious risk of intestinal blockage if a dog swallows them entire. Although clinical signs of Aesculin poisoning normally develop after 2 days, symptoms can occur as soon as 1-6 hours after ingestion. Common signs are vomiting and diarrhoea, severe dehydration and then shock and subsequent collapse. If you suspect your dog has eaten any conkers, please contact us as soon as possible – it’s why we’re here 🙂

So that’s some of the inanimate perils that you and hound-dog need to be aware of, but there’s a couple of living creatures to watch out for too – Slugs and Snails.

Autumn and spring tend to be when you see slugs and worms the most as they love the damp conditions; it isn’t these invertebrates themselves that pose the danger to your dog though. Slugs and snails play host to Lungworm larvae, and these are where the problem lies.


When your dog eats slugs or snails – revolting, I know, but they do do it! – these larvae mature into adult Lungworms in their bodies. These critters love to make their home in Fido’s heart and the major blood vessels to the lungs. Poor pooch, if infected, will lose weight due to a reduced appetite, have diarrhoea and vomiting, be lethargic, and many develop a cough (especially after exercise). Haemorrhaging (bleeding) from the lungs, liver, eyes, intestines, and any other parts of the body occurs; if left untreated, Lungworm infestation can be fatal.


Luckily there are products we can recommend to prevent infection from Lungworm These are only available from your vet; ask us for more information when you bring your pet in for a routine health check, or contact a team member whenever you feel you need the advice.

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