Well, autumn is well and truly with us now – the autumn storms are raging as we’re huddled around the laptop writing! However, storms aside, autumn brings its own hazards and pet health concerns – so in this blog, we’re going to talk about a few of them, and how we can help keep our pets healthy as the weather gets colder and the nights draw in.
Conkers, the nuts of the horse-chestnut tree, are particularly dangerous to dogs, and are in great profusion at the moment! For some reason, some dogs seem to love them – which isn’t great, because they are actually quite toxic. While a dog has to eat several to be poisoned, the effects can be quite nasty. Typical symptoms of aesculin (the toxic chemical) poisoning include vomiting and diarrhoea (which may be bloody), abdominal pain, and sometimes difficulty balancing or muscle tremors.
However, a more common risk if the conkers are swallowed is that they may block the bowel, leading to severe, unremitting vomiting, pain, dehydration and shock. In these cases, dogs need emergency surgery to remove them from the bowel, and repair any damage to the gut lining caused by their spiky cases.
Bottom line – try to keep conkers away from dogs, especially dogs with a tendency to gobble first and ask questions later!
As the season progresses, the beautiful yellows and reds of leaves on the trees leave behind stark branches as the wind blows them away. However, they do accumulate – typically in the edges of paths, parks, fields and roads. This can pose several hazards to our pets. Firstly, leaves on roads make it much harder for cars to brake fast if needed – so it’s essential to keep dogs under close control when walking near traffic, as the drivers won’t be able to stop as quickly if your pooch runs out in front of them.
Secondly, things can be hidden away in the leaf litter – including faeces (which dogs may try to roll in or eat) and sleepy hedgehogs, trying to find somewhere to hide away. Sadly, some dogs rooting through the litter see hedgehogs as a tasty snack, and while this is disastrous for the poor crunched hedgepig, it can also lead to an emergency visit to us to de-spine your dog’s mouth.
Finally, wet lead mould is the perfect environment for toadstools to grow – and while most are harmless, some are quite toxic to dogs, and a few can be fatal.
As a result, we advise that rooting through the litter should generally be discouraged for everyone’s sake!
Dark nights (and mornings!)
Outdoor living cats, and dogs being walked, are at much higher risk in the dark, as they often can’t be seen until it’s too late. Owners who walk their pets all warmly wrapped up in dark clothing are also in danger, as it’s surprisingly hard for a driver to see them in the dark sometimes!
As a result, we strongly recommend the use of reflective and dayglo gear – coats or tabards for you, harnesses for dogs, and safety collars for cats. If you can be seen, you can be avoided.
Cold and wet weather
Cold, wet and windy weather can make anyone feel down – but older pets with arthritis or similar joint problems can really suffer at this time of year. It’s really important to keep their joints moving. The joint fluid actually provides nutrients to the joint tissues, so prolonged inactivity actually makes the pain worse – which is why they are often stiff and sore immediately after getting up, but it wears off quickly. However, overdoing it will also tend to make things worse. Little and often is the key! However, there are a wide range of things we can do to help arthritic pets, so if your dog, cat or rabbit seems a bit stiff in the mornings, pop them down for us to check over – arthritis is incurable, but very manageable, to give your pets a long and comfortable life.