Brushing furry dog
I love autumn. Don’t you? Cooler weather, apple cider, pumpkins in the market. I think our dogs enjoy it, too: They get to jump in piles of leaves, just like I did when I was a kid, and the weather is more comfortable so chances are, they can spend more time outdoors during the day without overheating.

But autumn has its hazards, like any other season. You might be surprised to learn about some of them. Here are just a few things to watch for.

Fur and Skin Issues

Fall’s cool weather can be a welcome change, but it can bring a host of skin and fur issues for your canine.

Seasonal allergies can be a problem for people and pets in the fall. For example, ragweed blooms in late summer and early fall, ending with the first frost. Until then, your allergic pet may suffer signs such as licking, biting, scratching, hair loss, itchy ears and skin that is red, dry, greasy, scabby or stinky — especially on the legs, feet, face, belly or thighs. Talk to your veterinarian to see if your dog might have seasonal allergies and learn about medications to help relieve the itch.

Many pets shed their lighter summer coat in the fall to make way for a thicker winter coat. That means there will likely be hair, hair everywhere. Brush your pet more frequently to help reduce the amount of fur flying around your home.

Finally, thanks to milder fall weather and warmer spring temps, many ticks, including deer ticks (or black-legged ticks) are expanding their range and are more likely to be out year-round. Even if ticks aren’t active all 365 days of the year, they are active every month of the year in many places. Where some of us live, there will always be a few days that are warm enough for them to make an appearance. Consider keeping your pet on tick preventive year-round and keep your yard manicured to reduce tick habitat. Check your dog thoroughly for ticks after hikes in brushy or wooded areas, especially if there’s a large deer population.


A number of potentially poisonous substances come out of storage in the fall. They include rat and mouse poisons, antifreeze and mothballs. Mushrooms and toadstools are also likely to pop up in fall and can be deadly to pets as well. Take your pet to the veterinarian immediately if you suspect any type of poisoning. If possible, bring a sample of the suspected poison or the box it came in.

Signs of rodenticide poisoning depend on the type of product used. Bromethalin can cause changes in behavior, such as pressing the head against a wall or circling repeatedly. Anticoagulant poisoning prevents blood from clotting, causing internal bleeding. Other signs can include difficulty breathing, coughing, nose bleeds and unusual lethargy.

Antifreeze contains ethylene glycol, which is highly toxic to pets. Even a couple of teaspoons of the sweet-flavored stuff can cause kidney failure and death. Signs of antifreeze poisoning include staggering, vomiting, seizures and increased thirst and urination.

Mothballs can seem harmless (except to moths), but they are moderately to severely toxic to cats and dogs, especially if they contain a substance called naphthalene. Cats, in particular, tend to think that a mothball is just the right size for a toy, so keep these toxic objects well out of reach.

Some dogs will eat anything, including deadly wild mushrooms and toadstools. Some are so set on eating anything that looks edible that they must wear muzzles when outdoors to prevent them from ingesting these toxic fungi. Vomiting, which can begin anywhere from 15 minutes after ingestion to several hours later, is a potential clue that your pet has eaten something he shouldn’t.

Better Safe

Visibility is an issue in fall. There’s less daylight, so you may be walking your dog in the dark both morning and evening. Fall heralds hunting season as well.

When walking your pet in the dark, put a reflective or blinking collar on him to make sure motorists, bicyclists and other dog walkers can see him. A blinking collar may also help to ward off urban coyotes who sometimes have little compunction about attacking dogs, even those on leash and accompanied by a person.

If you’re hiking with a dog in the fall, outfit him with a blaze-orange vest so hunters won’t mistake him for a deer or other animal.

Happy autumn!

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