Love them like family. Feed them like family.

Eight Dog & Cat Tips for Autumn

Dog in the FallThe crisp, sweet smell of apples in the air…pumpkins decorating doorsteps…cooler temps (ideal for taking your dog on longer hikes) — fall has its merits but the seasonal changes bring some precautionary tales, too.

Fruitful scavenging

Leaf peeping along wooded trails or picking apples are autumnal rites; they’re not, however, the best activities to share with your dog. Dogs have descended from one of the best hunters/scavengers around; naturally they’ll wander with their snouts to the ground, invariably wolfing down undesirable items along the way.

Avoid treating your pet to apple peels, stems, leaves and seeds, which can cause intestinal problems.

As for those longer autumn hikes, avoid walking your dog where mushrooms flourish. Although they have highly evolved noses, dogs can’t sniff out safe mushrooms from toxic ones. If you notice vomiting, diarrhea, signs of dehydration, rapid heart rate or fever, contact your veterinarian immediately; it could mean your dog got into some bad ‘shrooms.

If you suspect your pet has ingested anything toxic, and your family vet isn’t available, locate a 24-hour vet clinic ASAP. You can also call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control 24/7 at 888-426-4435, or the Pet Poison Hotline at 800-213-6680 (note: there is a fee for their service).*

Sidestep school hazards

School-aged kids often leave a trail of school supplies behind that, to pets, may look like chew toys. Stow permanent markers, pencils and pens, and any other potential choking hazard, out of paw’s reach.

Also, some dogs have acquired a taste for paste, which can cause gastrointestinal blockage, so hide heavily glued homework projects. This also goes for maintenance projects entailing glue or fixatives, like laying linoleum floors, in which case keep your dog or cat confined to other rooms until your renovation is complete.

Snakebite safety

Snakes start hibernating in fall, which is when they’re more likely to strike. Check the CDC.gov site for areas where venomous snakes reside and keep curious pets away.

Avoid candy clutter 

Halloween begins the high-carb season, which means you’ll have to be extra vigilant watching your pets around sweets. 

Unfortunately, dogs love chocolate as much as humans, though some of us, thankfully, don’t share the same toxic reaction. The rich, flavorful smell of cocoa beans will command your dog’s attention quickly, so don’t leave candy bowls or chocolate-strewn counters unattended. If your pooch accidentally gets into the chocolate cache, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Xylitol, a sweetener found in many sugar-free gums and candies, is also extremely toxic for dogs and cats. And stick candies, like lollipops, can choke pets or cause painful obstructions so dispose of them carefully. Also, toss candy wrappers out immediately so your pet can’t chew and possibly choke on them.

If depriving your pet of seasonal sweets makes you feel like a witch, try tasty, pet-safe treats that are ideally nutritious any time of year, for your dog or your cat.

Costume carefully

It’s also the season we show off our adorable furry kids in costumes. Keep Halloween getups simple: Pets can get entangled by elaborate regalia with strings, belts, sashes, or small, movable parts and accidentally choke or even strangle themselves.

Always stay by your costumed pet’s side to be sure they don’t swallow anything harmful should they start chewing their decorative duds.

Decorating lite

Those dangling skeleton lights may be festive but can kitty bat them with her paws? Halloween’s one of the most highly decorated events, so keep your pet’s perspective in mind and make safe choices. Remember, your cat loves tabletops and counters where lit candles can easily topple. To avoid fires, substitute flameless, battery-operated candles instead.

Scared stiff?
Halloween’s supposed to be spooky but, if you hand out candy, all the noise from clamoring kids, ringing doorbells and strangers in weird costumes can make pets skittish.

We all know about curiosity and the cat, but your dog may want to sniff out the situation even more than your cat, who’ll often hide under a favorite couch.

Watch your dog’s reaction to the first Trick or Treaters. If he appears anxious, barks a lot or seems agitated, put up a gate to keep him in another room. If the ghouls and goblins don’t faze him, maybe he can help dole out candy — under close supervision, of course.

ID, please
Doors may open and close a lot on Halloween, so keep tabs on your cat or dog at all times. Indoor felines might especially be curious and use the distracting mayhem to slip out the door. The last thing you want is to wander the neighborhood in search of missing pets.

If you’re taking costumed dogs or cats to a party, always leash them. It’s best to have your dog or cat wear their collars and IDs even inside, in case they sneak out. After all, now that the days are shorter and the nights are growing darker, it’s harder to find pets if they’re separated from you.

That’s why fall is a great time to get your cat or dog micro-chipped, if you haven’t done so already.ID tags and microchips can help bring your best friend home safely — and there’s nothing sweeter than that.