10 tips to keep pets out of harm’s way in autumn
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Andrews McMeel Syndication
Who doesn’t love fall? Crisp air, colorful leaves, cool evenings. Even pets probably think it’s the perfect season as they romp through piles of leaves and enjoy scents kicked up by stronger fall winds. It seems like a benign time of year -- not too hot, not too cold -- but it has its own challenges and hazards for pets and their people.
Fleas and ticks are still active. Even if it’s starting to get cold where you live, they can hunker down and survive. Don’t lay off parasite preventives, especially if your pet spends a lot of time outdoors playing in your yard or hiking with you.
Fall is a fabulous time to hike with your dog, but it’s also hunting season. Put a bright orange vest on your dog -- and wear one yourself -- so that neither of you is mistaken for game.
Leaves fall in fall, and so do acorns. Some dogs will eat anything on the off chance it might be tasty, but the tannins in acorns can cause stomach upset, including vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain, according to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center. Keep them raked up if you have a dog with indiscriminate tastes.
Leaf piles are fun to jump in, but if they get damp, they can promote growth of potentially toxic fungi and molds that your dog could ingest accidentally -- or just because he thought they might be edible. Rake and bag them for disposal. The smoke from burning them pollutes the air with gases that are irritating and toxic to pets, wildlife and people.
Fall flowers often used in seasonal decorations or found in gardens include autumn crocus (Colchicum autumnale) and chrysanthemums. Autumn crocus, not to be confused with the nontoxic spring crocus, can cause serious problems in pets who nosh on it, ranging from vomiting and diarrhea to weakness, multiorgan failure and death. Chrysanthemums are less toxic, but you still don’t want pets nibbling on them, as the effects can include vomiting, diarrhea, drooling and wobbliness.
If your sweaters have been in storage, you may have placed mothballs in with them to prevent insect damage. Be sure cats, dogs or other pets don’t sniff them out or ingest them. Mothballs, in all of their forms -- cakes, scales, powder, cubes and spheres -- are pesticides that slowly release a gas vapor to kill and repel moths and other insects, according to the Pet Poison Helpline. The chemicals, which are toxic to pets, too, can be inhaled, absorbed through the skin, or if eaten, absorbed through the stomach and intestines. Signs of poisoning include mothball breath, vomiting, gums that are pale or brown, weakness, lethargy, difficulty breathing, tremors, seizures, and liver or kidney failure. Get rid of mothballs in your home and use cedar blocks or a cedar chest instead.
Speaking of sweaters, cooler weather can mean your thin-skinned dog --think Chihuahuas, greyhounds and hairless breeds -- needs a sweater, too. Senior dogs benefit from the extra warmth as well.
Scented candles and potpourri smell great to us, but the fumes they produce and the oils they contain can be irritating and even toxic to pets. Choose electric or beeswax candles, and provide scent by simmering citrus peels, cinnamon and whole cloves on the stove.
Rats and other rodents seek the warmth of homes in fall. Even if you don’t put out rodenticides, your neighbors may, and that’s bad news for pets who accidentally ingest them. Rodenticides can prevent blood from clotting and cause breathing difficulty, a rapid heart rate and lethargy. If you think your pet has ingested rat poison, get to the vet right away -- don’t wait for signs to develop. Use traps instead of poison, and ask neighbors to do so as well.
It’s getting darker earlier out there. Use a glow-in-the-dark collar to make sure your dog can be seen outdoors or while you’re on walks.
Q: My fiance has a beloved cavalier King Charles spaniel, and I’m worried because I’m allergic. Are there things I can do to help reduce my allergic reactions to him? We’re open to replacing the carpeting with wood or luxury vinyl, using air purifiers, finding special shampoos or diets -- anything that might help.
A: Your allergies might not entirely be under control, but there are lots of things you can do to help manage them. Replacing carpeting with wood or luxury vinyl is a good start. Vacuum or mop (either dry or damp) the floor daily to keep dander (dead skin cells that are allergenic) at bay. Large washable throw rugs such as those by Ruggable may be useful, too.
Having your fiance brush the dog daily outdoors will also help reduce the amount of dander in the house. Bathing the dog every week or two can help as well. If a gentle shampoo is used, it won’t dry the dog’s skin or fur.
See an allergist about an appropriate medication regimen for you. They may recommend some combination of allergy shots, decongestants and other meds that can help.
It’s best to keep the dog out of the bed or even out of the bedroom, but if neither of you wants to do that, wash sheets and dog bedding in hot water frequently, using a scent-free detergent to help reduce any other sensitivities you might have. Avoid feather pillows and comforters. Put a doggie T-shirt or onesie on him when he’s on the bed or in the bedroom to help contain dander. A medical-grade air purifier with HEPA filtration for the bedroom can help, too.
Following a combination of these tips should help to keep your allergies at bay. Good luck to you and your fiance! -- Dr. Marty Becker
Do you have a pet question? Send it to email@example.com or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.
Know signs of
-- What’s an emergency? Here’s a quick list to help you know when to get your pet to the vet -- stat: seizure, fainting or collapse; eye injury, even if it seems minor; frequent vomiting or diarrhea; allergic reactions, such as swelling around the face; any suspected poisoning from antifreeze, rodent or snail bait, human medication or insecticides; snake or spider bites; heatstroke or hypothermia; bleeding wounds or lacerations; animal bites; trauma such as being hit by a car, even if the pet seems OK; difficulty breathing; straining to urinate or defecate; and signs of pain such as panting, labored breathing, lethargy, restlessness, crying out, unusual aggression and loss of appetite.
-- Like humans, dogs have two kinds of sleep. The deeper kind is characterized by rapid eye movements, so it's known as REM sleep. We know humans dream during REM sleep. We also know that the whining, heavy breathing, twitching and leg movements we've all seen in our dogs occur during canine REM sleep. So it's not far-fetched to believe dogs are dreaming, too. What are they dreaming about? We'll likely never know.
-- Housetraining hack: Puppies need to relieve themselves after they wake up, after they eat or drink and after a period of play. Set up a schedule to accommodate your pup’s needs as you work to mold behavior, and remember that young puppies, especially small breeds or mixes, can't go very long without eating, drinking, sleeping or relieving themselves. A good rule of thumb: Puppies can hold it as long as their age in months. A 2-month-old pup can "hold it" in a crate for about two hours, for example. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet care experts. Veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker is founder of the Fear Free organization, co-founder of VetScoop.com and author of many best-selling pet care books. Kim Campbell Thornton is an award-winning journalist and author who has been writing about animals since 1985. Mikkel Becker is a behavior consultant and lead animal trainer for Fear Free Pets. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/Kim.CampbellThornton and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.