It’s not hard to spot the changes in season that mark the beginning of fall in our beautiful state. Autumn leaves, cozy sweaters, gorgeous sunsets, and pumpkin spice everything let us know that fall is here.
The changing seasons mean all these comforting traditions but also a chance to pay attention to pet safety and how to take precautions to protect our pets in new ways. Here are a few tips to help you avoid a trip to an animal emergency room this fall:
Fall Yard Clean Up 101
As you prepare your yard and garden for the coming cooler months, consider your pet’s safety in your planning.
Chemicals – It’s essential to check the labels of all substances you plan to use on your lawn and garden to ensure they are pet safe. Fertilizers, especially the organic ones, tend to be tempting to dogs, and if they ingest them, it can cause problems from GI upset to seizures. Herbicides and insecticides can all be toxic to pets, so read labels carefully, clean up any spills, and don’t let your pet out while working with these chemicals. The most dangerous chemicals for pets are rodenticides or rat bait. Even those labeled “pet safe” can cause serious problems, so it’s best not to use these chemicals and enlist a professional exterminator’s help instead.
Products and Plants – Whether you’re planting spring bulbs, adding a bit of fall decor, or mulching your garden beds, watching out for pet safety is imperative. Tulip, daffodil, crocus, and hyacinth bulbs can all cause significant problems for pets, as can ingesting cocoa mulch and other decorative items such as mums, gourds, or corn stalks. Check the ASPCA for a complete list of toxic and non-toxic plants to keep pets safe.
Mushrooms – One other hazard to watch for in cool and wet months is mushrooms. Although some mushrooms are harmless, several varieties are highly toxic to pets and can cause acute liver failure or even death within a short time. Monitor your yard for mushroom growth, remove any that appear, and supervise pets, especially puppies, whenever they are outside. If you suspect your pet has ingested a mushroom, seek emergency veterinary care immediately.
With increasing wet weather, the chances for mold to grow indoors and out increases. Mold is a fungus that can grow anywhere that is damp and retains moisture, and it spreads by releasing spores into the air. When pets or people breathe the mold spores into their lungs, health problems can result.
Mold exposure in people is well documented, and signs of mold exposure in dogs are similar. Lung and respiratory issues, digestive problems, allergies, and neurological issues, including tremors, have all been noted in dogs due to mold.
Pets can encounter mold inside your home, but they can also be exposed outdoors. Keep pets away from compost piles and bins since decomposing organic matter is a prime place where mold grows. Wet leaf piles can also harbor mold, so as much as you like those cute fall leaf pile photos with your pet, stick to frolicking in dry leaves and clean up any wet leaves that collect in your yard.
Prevent Tick-Borne Diseases
If you go hiking with your pet or enjoy other outdoor fall activities, chances are good you’ll have an encounter with ticks. Ticks are active in the spring, summer, and fall and rarely go dormant unless freezing temperatures occur. In fact, some ticks, like the Black-legged tick, are most active in the fall. Ticks carry diseases that can be transmitted to pets and people, such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Anaplasmosis. These and other tick-borne conditions can cause severe and long-term problems for your pet, such as fatigue, muscle pain, swelling in the joints, and even seizures. So, it’s imperative to prevent ticks from attaching to your pet and entering your house.
To prevent tick-borne diseases:
- Apply a tick prevention product year-round
- Talk to your veterinarian about tick-borne disease vaccines
- Avoid wooded areas, tall grasses, and extensive shrubbery while out with your dog
- Clear wood piles and leaves from your property
- Inspect your pets daily for ticks and remove any that you find
You may wish to keep dead ticks removed from your pet in a labeled plastic bag in the freezer to help with identification. As always, call your veterinarian with any questions.
With darker skies and fewer daylight hours, one of your daily outings with your pet will likely be in the dark. Ensure drivers can see you and your pet by investing in a reflective harness, collar, and leash to keep you safe while walking in the early morning or evening. Always keep your pet on a leash to avoid wildlife that might be emerging at dawn or dusk. A headlamp is great for improving visibility, but choose a well-lit route for your walk or run.
Halloween Do’s and Don’ts
As much as we love Halloween, everyone knows that the holiday festivities pose some dangers for pets. Although some pets enjoy spooky fun, be cautious about where and what you allow your pet to do when celebrating the holiday.
Holiday sweets – Halloween is the notorious beginning to the season of candy and treats. When the sweets come out for any holiday, ensure they are kept well out of pets’ reach. Chocolate, xylitol (a common sweetener), and milk-based treats can all cause tummy upset at best or pet poisoning at worst. If you think your pet has gotten into something they shouldn’t, seek veterinary care immediately.
Tags and ID – Ensure your pet is wearing a proper collar and ID tag, and has a currently registered microchip. Pets can easily escape with the constantly opening door on Halloween, and a microchip is your pet’s best chance of a reunion with you should they become lost.
Dressing up – All those pet costumes might look cute, but make sure your pet truly enjoys dressing up before you plan their costume. For pet safety, make sure pet costumes aren’t too tight and don’t restrict eyesight, breathing, or movement. Ensure there aren’t any loose parts that can break off or be ingested, as these can cause gastrointestinal upset or a foreign body obstruction. And consider a costume with reflectors, a light, or a bright color to ensure they can be seen in the dark!
A safe spot – For those pets who don’t like the excitement, give them their own secure, quiet space to spend the evening. A small room, quiet bedroom, or even a bathroom can give your pet security and comfort during a busy evening. Place a white noise machine, their pet bed, and water and food dishes in their area, and check on them often. Black cats should be kept indoors on the days before and after Halloween, as well as on Halloween night.
Preparing your family, home, and pet for fall is always fun, and taking these few precautions can help you enjoy the season even more. If you’re not sure if your pet requires emergency care, call your veterinarian for advice. If it’s after your primary veterinarian’s regular business hours, please call us at 1-802-863-2387 (24/7), so we can provide the most updated wait time information. We can also direct you on when it’s time to bring your pet to BEVS immediately.
Please understand that if you visit, you may be asked to wait. This is because we must always prioritize the most urgent patients first, including those who arrive after you do.