Autumn Health Risks for Dogs

Autumn Health Risks for Dogs

puppy-in-leave-pile.jpgVets in Springfield, MO see pets with illnesses all year long.  Most folks figure fall is when insect-borne illnesses become limited. And when the temperatures start to cool, and the leaves start to turn, it’s a wonderful time to take your dog for a hike in the Missouri woods. Don’t miss out on the fun, but do remember this:

On warm fall days, mosquitoes are still present, and they still can transmit diseases to you and your canine friends. Dogs that spend time out with hunters, hikers, and even kids in the backyard, can be at risk! Mosquitoes are still active on warm fall days, deer ticks are still biting, and acorns and leaves can pose a surprising danger to dogs.

Mosquitoes and Heartworm

The greatest mosquito-borne risk for dogs is, of course, heartworm. Some mosquitoes die off once the nights turn chilly,but some some hibernate, and return to the outdoors once the sun has warmed the air and ground. While you can’t control the insects in the woods, you can protect your pet with proper heartworm preventative year round. Our experienced Springfield Veterinarians can help you start your pet on a heartworm program that will keep them safe.  Never use DEET on your pet; instead use a citrus-based product and reapply frequently. 

Eliminating mosquito breeding places around your home and property (emptying standing water from flower pots, old tires, birdbaths, etc) can help keep the mosquito population at bay on your patch of ground. 

Fleas & Ticks: A Year-Round Problem 

According to Michael W. Dryden, DVM, PhD, professor in veterinary parasitology at Kansas State University, even when temps drop below freezing ticks are still out there. "They may not be as efficient at attaching themselves to a host, but they're still alive," he says. And adult deer ticks actually begin to feed most actively around the first frost. As temperatures drop, ticks may begin to seek warmer places to shelter -- under piles leaf and garden litter, or at the base of older stone foundations.

Rodents and wildlife always carry fleas, and a warm spell in fall or winter can mean a small population of fleas suddenly turns into a huge one. Protect your pet all year against fleas, using products suggested by your Springfield, MO vet.

Oak Leaves and Acorns are Toxic to Dogs

Dogs love to chew, and some dogs seem to chew on anything.  Swallowing a mouthful of oak leaves or acorns poses a danger for your dog. Acorns can cause choking or intestinal blockages,and contain a chemical called gallotannin, which can cause severe gastrointestinal distress in dogs, including vomiting, lethargy, diarrhea, and damage to the liver and kidneys.

Snakes Are Testy This Time of Year

Snakes are active in the fall as they seek out their winter hibernation spots, and may be more testy and likely to strike at a dog (or human). Some will hide under leaf and litter piles, and may try to find a safe hiding place in your garage or lowest floor, if they can get in. You can’t control snakes in the woods, but you can on your own land. Properties surrounded by woodlands are most at risk of snakes trying to make a winter home too close to you. Clean up the leaf litter piles, and keep an eye out for reptile visitors. 

Autumn Crocus

Early fall sees the bloom of the autumn crocus (Colchicum autumnale), which contains the toxic alkaloid called colchicine. This chemical is poisonous to dogs, causing drooling, vomiting, gastrointestinal bleeding, bloody diarrhea when ingested. Liver and kidney damage, respiratory failure, seizures and even death may result. If you have them around your home, your dog is at risk.


Antifreeze contains ethylene glycol: this sweet-tasting chemical can be deadly if your dog ingests even a small amount. Because many people change their antifreeze in the fall, dogs who roam may be at risk. And if you change your antifreeze at home, be sure to keep the dog inside as you work, and mop up any spills. When walking your dog, be sure to keep him from drinking from any standing street puddles to avoid antifreeze ingestion.

Compost Bins or Piles

Composting work though the action of decay and bacterial breakdown: some of these bacteria can be dangerous for your dogs. Find a way to keep your pet away from your own compost pile, and be aware if local neighbors are composting. Dogs who roam are at most risk of nibbling on an available pile of decaying organic matter.


Dogs can't determine which wild mushrooms are safe and which are deadly. If you see your pet munching on mushrooms while out on a hike, it’s a good idea to have him checked by the vet as soon as possible. He may have eaten safe mushrooms, but if not, he’s heading for sickness or worse.


Fall is when wild rodents typically head indoors. Most of us respond with traps and poison. While your dog may not eat the rodenticide directly, he may chew up a mouse that has already consumed the posion, and that can be fatal. If you believe your dog has eaten a rodent, take him to the vet immediately, and tell the vet what poison you or your neighbor have been using.

And Lastly, Chocolates and Candies

Halloween. Thanksgiving, Christmas. Delicious treats for humans, and toxic mouthfuls for dogs. Be sure to keep all sweet human treats out of your dog’s reach, and don’t let the kids share with him. Vomiting, tremors, heart or respiration failures are all possible as a result of eating chocolate. Get your pet to the animal clinic immediately if you believe he has consumed chocolate. This is also true for xylitol-sweetened products, as xylitol is toxic to dogs as well.