Along with cooler weather and shorter days, the fall season means a higher risk of your pet being exposed to toxic plants for dogs and cats alike. Keeping your fur baby healthy this autumn means being on the lookout for nuts, mushrooms, seasonal flowers and other items that may cause injury or intestinal distress. Follow these fall safety tips for pets to keep the whole family safe.
7 Inside and Outside Fall Safety Tips for Pets
When the temperatures drop, little critters like mice and rats try to sneak into warm homes. But be careful how you choose to deal with this issue, because rat poison and dogs (or cats, for that matter) don’t mix. “Rat poison is serious—and potentially fatal,” warns Dr. Ann Hohenhaus, DVM, staff doctor at New York City’s Animal Medical Center. There are two main types: ones that stop the blood from clotting and those that increase blood calcium to a dangerous level, she explains. If your cat or dog eats rat poison, you should take them to your veterinarian immediately for emergency medical care.
While most of the fungus that sprouts up in the woods and on lawns in fall is relatively harmless, it’s best to take caution. “Wild mushrooms can be toxic if ingested by a cat or dog, causing vomiting and sometimes liver injury,” says Dr. Stephanie Liff, DVM, a veterinarian and owner of Pure Paws Veterinary Clinic in New York City.
Plants and Trees
You may think a few dried-up leaves are harmless enough, but they shouldn’t be sampled by your pet. “Leaves can lead to gastrointestinal upset if they’re ingested,” points out Dr. Liff. It’s also a good idea to become familiar with trees and plants poisonous to cats and dogs—like the yew and conifer trees with red berries. “Yews are a cardiac toxin if eaten by pets, causing arrhythmias or potentially cardiac arrest,” she adds.
Not many flowers bloom in cooler weather, but there are a few to watch out for. “Autumn crocus is a fall flower that causes destruction of rapidly dividing cells, which can in turn lead to weakness, vomiting, diarrhea, and less frequently, death,” reports Dr. Liff. And lilies are extremely toxic to cats’ kidneys, she adds. Check out our guide to poisonous plants for dogs and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animal’s (ASPCA) list of toxic plants for dogs and cats for more insight.
Think nuts are healthy for dogs and cats? The ones that end up on the ground this fall aren’t the kinds of treats you should let your pet gnaw or chew on. Black walnuts can be poisonous and lead to seizures and tremors if eaten by pets, notes Dr. Liff. And they often grow mold once they drop, which is another toxic danger. “Acorns can cause intestinal distress, and in small dogs, the GI tract may become obstructed, which might require surgery to remove them,” she says.
Most car owners check antifreeze levels when winter approaches, but you must use caution around this liquid and pets. “It’s toxic—and it’s rather common for suburban pets to try a taste because of its sweet flavor,” explains Dr. Liff. Your cat or dog may mistakenly lick it off the driveway or garage floor, which can lead to kidney failure and death, though owners usually first report it as vomiting and lethargy. “Antifreeze causes neurologic symptoms, including increased drinking, and ultimately, kidney failure,” adds Dr. Hohenhaus.
Some dogs just can’t resist rooting around in a kid’s backpack, especially if there was a turkey sandwich in it the day before. But luckily for your pet, school supplies are relatively harmless these days, says Dr. Liff. “Most of these products are safe for children if ingested, so they shouldn’t be a big problem if your dog tries them,” she explains. Batteries, however, are another story. “From time to time we see a pet who’s eaten these, and sometimes it can be toxic to the animal or can cause obstruction,” she adds. Also be careful with tiny caps, notes Dr. Hohenhaus. “Marker caps are just the right size to get caught in the intestine if swallowed,” she notes. “And cats adore rubber bands and may ingest them, which can cause an intestinal blockage.”
If your pet comes into contact with any of these hazards, contact your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 as soon as possible.
Jennifer Kelly Geddes is a New York City writer/editor and the mom of two teenage girls. She’s also the devoted owner of a rescue pup named Django, a temperamental Shepherd mix. Geddes has worked for Food & Wine, Parenting, Seventeen and Airbnb magazines and creates content for dozens of sites, including Care, Fisher-Price, the National Sleep Foundation and Realtor.