With autumn already here, dog owners should take care to 'autumn-proof' their dogs to keep them healthy and safe throughout the season.
- Enjoying the season: autumn is a wonderful time of year, but it presents dog owners with the challenge of 'autumn-proofing' their four-legged friends. This doesn’t usually require much effort. Using appropriate equipment and clothing (where necessary) and being aware of some potential dangers in the natural environment are generally all it takes to protect your pet. Once you’ve done that, you and your dog will be free to enjoy the pleasures of the season.
- Mushrooms: fungi flourish in the moist soils of autumn, and eating mushrooms can be lethal for our four-legged friends. To be on the safe side, don’t let your dog eat any mushrooms at all – not even those that are safe for humans. Take special care when playing fetch: if you throw a stick and it lands on the forest floor or in a pile of leaves, your dog could accidentally pick up a mushroom in its mouth. Always check what your dog is eating if it has picked up something while out on a walk.
- Parasites: ticks can still be active in temperatures as low as 44 °F (7 °C). Dogs that live in areas prone to ticks – such as around woods, water and meadows – must be protected against these blood-sucking parasites. Tick preventatives are an effective way to protect your dog. However, if you prefer not to use these, you should thoroughly examine your dog after each walk and remove any ticks. The harmful effects of harvest mites on dogs should also not be underestimated. The larvae of these tiny pests can infect a dog, puncturing its skin and sucking its blood. This leads to an allergic reaction that causes itchiness, so your dog will constantly scratch and lick the affected area – often the paws, nose, ears or stomach. This results in fur loss, skin irritation and inflammation. To avoid this, dog walkers should keep away from the kind of environments favoured by harvest mites. These include meadows, lakes and river areas. However, if you don’t want to be restricted to walking the streets during the autumn season, you should ask your vet about gentle but effective preventative measures for your dog.
- Cold and damp: older dogs and those with less undercoat are especially vulnerable to the cold and damp. It affects their joints and takes some of the fun out of an autumnal walk. In such cases, suitable clothing to protect against colder temperatures is recommended. This clothing should fit well and keep your pet warm, without hindering movement. The length of the walks you take will depend on your dog. For older four-legged friends, several short walks through the autumn woods may be better than one long walk. While you are out, your dog should keep moving and not sit or lie down for any length of time.
- Darkness: as summer draws to a close, it gets dark earlier. If you go out with your dog later in the afternoon, make sure your four-legged friend is visible in the dark. Reflective collars, harnesses and leashes are great for this and can help to prevent accidents (e.g. involving cyclists). Long-haired dogs may be better off with reflective vests – unlike collars and harnesses with reflective strips, they won’t be covered up by long hair. And it’s always worth thinking about your own clothing when you’re getting ready for an evening walk – you need to be visible in the dark, too!