Emergency Medicine, Urgent Care
Fall Pet Safety Tips: A New Season Brings New Dangers
Whether you’re a fan of football, festivals, Halloween, or all things pumpkin spice, there is plenty to love about fall. The change in seasons also brings about new potential dangers for our pets. Check out these tips and information to ensure your fall remains festive and doesn’t include a trip to the ER.
Be thoughtful about where you use fall decorations. Plastic pumpkins, skeletons, or other décor with small pieces can be tempting for curious pets to chew on or play with but can cause dangers for choking or a blockage if ingested. Many fall displays also include corn cobs which are notorious for sending pets to see a surgeon for removal.
Use flameless candles. Whether you’re illuminating a jack-o-lantern or just setting a calming mood, candles can be a danger for curious pets. If pets get too close, they can burn themselves, or topple the candle over causing a fire. Try using flameless candles instead or ensure candles are out of reach.
Be sensitive to scents. Candles and scent warmers can help it feel like fall. However, some candles can affect air quality, or their scent can be bothersome to your pet, especially if they have a respiratory problem. Try using candles made from natural materials like beeswax.
Keep candy out of reach. Make sure those trick-or-treat bags and buckets stay off the floor! Chocolate is one of the biggest dangers, and different chocolates have different toxicity levels. Typically, the darker the chocolate, the more toxic it is for your pet. Other candy culprits include chewing gum, sugar-free candy containing xylitol, covered raisins, and bite-size hard candy. Wrappers and sucker sticks can also be choking hazards. If your pet happens to ingest any chocolate, contact your veterinarian right away or call the Pet Poison Hotline. They’ll want to know what kind of chocolate it was and if you can estimate how much your pet has eaten. If you can find the wrapper, that can be helpful as well.
Reserve tailgate treats for humans only. If you’re gearing up to watch the game, remember that many of the foods we enjoy during a football party can be dangerous for pets. Sharing greasy burgers, pizza, or appetizers can cause gastrointestinal distress. If your pet eats something out of the ordinary, it can lead to diarrhea, vomiting, or inflammation. In severe cases, your pet could get pancreatitis. Other dangers include alcohol, which can be toxic for pets, while remains like chicken bones can be choking hazards.
Keep your pets secure inside. Your pet may be scared by people in costumes or masks and a constantly ringing doorbell can keep pets on edge. Pets have also been known to dart through open doors while you’re handing out treats. The safest place for your pet is inside, in a quiet spot away from the door. This is also a good time to be sure that your pet identification is current in case they do get out. Pay particular attention to your black cats. Halloween superstitions can put our black cat friends at risk from pranksters.
Choose safe costumes for your pet. If you’re dressing up your pet for Halloween, make sure you are choosing a costume that doesn’t put your pet at risk, and always make sure you supervise your pet while they’re wearing a costume. Check for small pieces or strings that your pet could ingest. Make sure the costume does not restrict their movement and that they can easily breathe, eat, see, move, and use the bathroom.
Pay attention to human costumes, too. Watch costumes for strings or small pieces that can become a choking hazard. If you are DIYing your own costume, make sure curious pets aren’t helping themselves to craft materials like glue and adhesive that could be dangerous. And face paint and Halloween makeup can also be toxic or cause serious allergic reactions for your pet. Never use them on your pet, and make sure you store them in a safe place.
Stick to safe trails for outdoor exploration. Hunting and trapping seasons are also approaching, which can present dangers for those who are exploring the outdoors. When hiking, stay on well-marked paths and don’t let your dog walk off leash. This should help avoid the dangers of any traps that have been laid. Take precautions against hunters by dressing yourself and your pet in bright colors that do not blend in with the scenery. There are many parks and trails that are restricted from hunters, so stick to those for increased safety.
Steer clear of snakes. Know which snakes in your area are venomous and where they usually hibernate. Keep your pet on a leash on walks so you can keep them away from those areas.
Keep an eye out for mushrooms. While many mushrooms have little to no toxicity, there are some that are very toxic. It can be hard to distinguish between the different types, so it’s safest to keep your pet away from any area where mushrooms are growing. Check your yard and remove any that are growing and keep your pet on a leash during walks.
Stay out of the fields. In many areas of the country, fall is also harvest time for farmers. For farm dogs and cats (or those living near a farm), you’ll want to ensure your pets aren’t out exploring the fields as that could put them in harm’s way.
Use caution around piles of leaves. As fun as they can be to jump into and run through, piles of leaves can be a breeding ground for mold and bacteria. There may also be hidden dangers under the leaves that you can’t see or sharp sticks that could puncture your pet’s skin or gastrointestinal tract if chewed.
Getting Ready for Winter
Safely keep rodents at bay. As you prep your house for fall, you might notice some unwanted critters trying to take refuge in your home, garage, shed, or barn. Using rodenticides can keep those rodents at bay, but keep in mind these poisons are also extremely dangerous to you household pets. If you suspect your pet has ingested any amount of rodenticide, especially ones that contain bromethalin, you should seek emergency treatment right away.
Use winterizing chemicals with care. Antifreeze is highly toxic for pets. Store any antifreeze containers safely out of reach of your pets and keep your pets away from the area if you are adding antifreeze to your vehicle. Any spills should be cleaned immediately with a cloth or paper towel and disposed of in an area your pet cannot access.
Keep an eye out for allergens. The arrival of fall often leads to higher levels of ragweed pollen in the air which can trigger allergic reactions. Ragweed tends to hang around until the first frost. Also be aware that your pets can be allergic to mold and dust mites that come around this time of the year, and changes in grass can also be irritating to paws.
Watch for signs of an allergic reaction. Many reactions can show up as an issue with your pet’s skin. Behaviors like excessive licking, biting, or scratching could be a clue that there’s a problem. These behaviors can also indicate drug or food allergies, so it’s important to speak with your family veterinarian if you notice these signs. You can ask for a referral to a veterinary dermatologist who can help with testing to see what your pet is allergic to and help you manage it.
We’re Here for You This Fall
Despite all your best efforts, there’s always a chance your pet finds their way into something they shouldn’t. For non-emergency situations, contact your family veterinarian and ask for a referral if needed. For emergency situations, come to your nearest MedVet for care right away. If you believe your pet has ingested a toxic substance, you can also contact the Pet Poison Helpline at 800.213.6680.