While many appreciate the beauty of fall colors, from the leaves on trees to potted mums and carved pumpkins, there are seasonal hazards for Service Dogs and their owners to be aware of, no matter what part of the country you live in.
There doesn’t have to be snow and ice on the ground for weather to cause a problem. Especially during a warmer than usual season, there’s still a risk for dehydration or heat stroke. While the unseasonably warm temperatures may be deceiving, any time you find yourself in the sun for an extended time, or feeling warm. While wearing layers against any cold weather predictions, you need to make sure both you and your dog stay hydrated.
Warmer weather also means rain, and rain can sometimes mean flooding. While a Service Dog is trained to keep someone from stepping out into traffic, they can’t judge the depth of rainwater flowing on a road, or along a curb. Staying aware of the weather, especially flood warnings, is imperative.
Wet leaves pose another danger, as a coating of them on the ground makes it rather slick to walk on. This means you can potentially slip and fall if you don’t have visibility — or you have to rush to get into your vehicle or nearby building. Wear all-weather boots or shoes with a sole that will grip on slippery surfaces. Keep a small folding umbrella in your purse or jacket pocket. Having some protection from the rain allows you to take your time when walking or traveling outside.
When temperatures do finally drop, keep your dog’s paws protected from ice, freezing temperatures and ice salt. Applying a protectant to your dog’s paws, or putting dog boots on them, before going out in cold weather can help protect them against the cold. Make sure that, when you come in, you also wipe them down with a damp rag to remove any road salt.
It’s the time of year when sweet treats begin to appear in every office break room. Even if you’re watching what you eat, the temptations are still there. Diabetes alert dogs are trained to alert at a blood sugar level of 70, which gives someone who has diabetes time to test and take insulin or other medications before their blood sugar levels drop even more.
To avoid any unexpected complications, be sure to stick to the diet plan your physician recommends during the holidays. Keep your dog on their regular food, as too much sugar can also cause diabetes in your dog, and is not healthy for those with arthritis.
Chocolate and the artificial sweetener known as xylitol are also toxic and can cause inflammation of the pancreas. Be sure not to leave any within reach of your pets. Be wary of candy wrappers as well, which can become a choking hazard. Caffeine, found in some desserts and breakfast foods and drinks, can also be fatal to dogs. Dairy foods like cream, butter or cheese can cause diarrhea. Nutmeg spice found in pumpkin pie can cause hallucinations and seizures.
Sweets aren’t the only thing that can be toxic to pets over the fall holidays. Fruitcakes, breads or cookies that contain raisins can cause your dog to have kidney failure. Macadamia nuts, grapes and unbaked bread dough are also hazardous.
Dinner scraps, leftovers, fatty pieces of meat, pork, garlic and onions can also be a danger to your pet. It’s always a good idea to not feed your pets table scraps.
Dangers Hidden in the Grass
Service Dogs are trained to ignore distractions and food offered by strangers, but sometimes the dangers are right under their paws. Many homeowners prepare lawns for the coming spring by applying herbicides, fungicides and fertilizers to lawns and gardens.
These products are often toxic to pets when ingested, as dogs and cats lick their paws to clean them. Make sure to wipe their paws off with a damp cloth whenever they come inside after a walk; especially if you know that your neighbors or gardeners have treated lawns.
Autumn blooming flowers, like crocus, clematis and chrysanthemum, should be fenced off, since they’re poisonous if eaten. Also, be wary of any spring-blooming bulbs that may have just been planted. Fruit that has dropped, and apples especially, should be picked up and disposed of, since stems, leaves and seeds are toxic.
Some of the best things about fall are the scents in the air of baked apple pies, freshly baked bread and wood burning fireplaces or bonfires. But your pets may also smell other scents, like mice that have died from eating rat poison. If you find your dog nibbling on one, be sure to contact your veterinarian or poison control center. There may still be a danger of your dog ingesting the rat poison.
Fall is also a time when auto owners and auto service centers add antifreeze to vehicles. Don’t let your pets drink from puddles in garages or water runoff from driveways, since antifreeze is extremely toxic to pets. If you notice a puddle in your own garage, cover it with absorbent cat litter to prevent your pets from drinking it.
No matter what your plans are for enjoying the fall colors and scents, keep yourself and your Service Dog safe, warm and healthy.