Nothing beats an Autumn's day dog walk. We all love breathing in that cool, fresh air whilst kicking through fallen leaves with our canine companions. But amidst its colourful beauty, Autumn can pose health threats to dogs.
Acorns are the nuts of the oak tree. Like conkers, they fall from the trees in late September-early October. Acorns contain tannins which are toxic to dogs. If ingested, they cause stomach upsets and can also cause liver and kidney damage.
Affected dogs show signs such as:
Conkers are the seeds of the horse chestnut tree that usually fall from late September-early October. They contain a chemical called aesculin, which is toxic to dogs if ingested.
Luckily, conkers have a very bitter taste and so cases of poisoning are rare. However, some dogs, especially puppies, might eat enough to make them unwell. Dogs may also inadvertently swallow conkers if playing with, or carrying them in their mouths.
Common signs of toxicity include:
Piles of leaves and dropped fruit can contain heavy growths of bacteria and mould. Rotting fruit can also produce natural alcohol compounds. If ingested directly, or licked from their coat after a walk, these can make dogs very unwell.
Seasonal canine illness
Seasonal canine illness (SCI) is a relatively newly described condition. It has been reported to occur in some areas of the UK between August and November. The cause is yet unknown and research is ongoing. It has been suggested that harvest mites might play a role.
Dogs affected by SCI usually become sick within 72 hours of walking in woodland. Signs include:
Without early treatment, seasonal canine illness can be fatal.
Harvest mites are tiny orange insects. They can be found near the ears, between the toes or in the armpits of dogs which have been in long grass or dense foliage. The mites cause intense discomfort and itching and can drive your dog crazy.
Fireworks are around a lot from Autumn to New Year, and frighten many dogs. They are a common cause of noise phobias in dogs with RSPCA data suggesting that over 60% of dogs show marked signs of distress when exposed to firework displays.
Some species of wild mushroom and toadstool are toxic to dogs. They cause vomiting, diarrhoea, weakness, collapse, neurological signs and organ failure. Some berries can be poisonous too.
Colder weather can unfortunately encourage pests indoors, meaning it is more common for us to see cases of rat and mouse bait poisoning in dogs in the Autumn and winter months. The level of toxicity and risk depends on the type and amount of chemical ingested.
Thanks to Halloween leftovers and early Christmas purchases, there's often an abundance of chocolate and sweets in the house in the Autumn and Winter months. Chocolate contains a chemical called theobromine, a stimulant (like caffeine) that is poisonous to dogs. Sweets often contain Xylitol, an artificial sweetener which is also toxic to dogs.
During Autumn, many people start to plant bulbs in the garden ready for spring. Some of these, including lillies and daffodils, can be toxic to dogs.
As always, if you have any concerns please speak to a vet.