Autumn – the year’s last, loveliest smile :-)

September 13th, 2021

Our guide to the things to watch out for in the weeks and months ahead as we wave goodbye to summer.

1. Mould spores!

The increasingly warm and humid weather in the UK is resulting in something known as a ‘mycotic bloom’ every Autumn which is increasingly being recognised as a major cause of skin problems and illness in some animals. This results from clouds of fungal spores and toxins being released from fallen leaves and dying vegetation as they start to rot. These toxins cause severe skin irritation and when inhaled or ingested can cause stomach upsets and likely contribute to the so-called ‘seasonal illness’ that affects many dogs in the Autumn. Clearing fallen leaves and avoiding parks and woodland at this time of year may help if you think your dog is affected.

2. Arthritis

Signs of arthritis often first appear in colder weather and you may notice your dog licking at its joints, appearing stiff when getting out of bed, taking a while to warm up on walks or being reluctant to jump in and out of the car or climb steps. Your dog may also start limping after long walks. Arthritis causes a constant and nagging pain. Though you may not think your pet is hurting, they may be masking the symptoms and living with the pain. Many cats also suffer in silence and will spend more time sleeping, stop playing with toys and appear grumpy and less inclined to interact. Fortunately there are lots of excellent treatment options available now including Cartrophen, K-laser and supplements such as Nutraquin+ which can help treat the condition and stop it progressing.

3. Ticks!

Ticks love damp, mild conditions and there is always a rise in the population during the Spring and Autumn. Ticks can carry Lymes disease which is a threat to people as well as pets. The changing UK climate has seen a large increase in numbers and has also enabled continental species of ticks to survive in the UK which means that new diseases such as the blood parasite Babesia are likely to be seen with increasing frequency. Ask us about the latest tick preventatives and make sure you have a twisting tick hook in your pet first aid kit – don’t be tempted to pull or prise them off as the head can break off and remain embedded in the skin causing a nasty infection.

4. All washed up!

The start of Autumn marks the return of the stormier seas and brings to our shores a number of potential threats, the most notable one being chunks of palm oil. Palm oil is used in foods and cosmetics and can be quite appealing to some dogs. It is produced in vast quantities in the tropics and ends up spilling into the seas before floating all around the world. It absorbs crude oil and other toxins from water in the process and when ingested can cause extreme gastrointestinal irritation leading to severe vomiting and diarrhoea as well as a life-threatening pancreatitis.

5. Lungworm

Forget ticks, Alabama rot, palm oil etc this parasite is killing many more dogs in Dorset than all the other put together! Spread in the slime of garden slugs and snails it has been shown that most dog toys or chews left out in the garden will soon have a heavy burden of lungworm eggs. Lungworm attacks the lungs, heart, blood and brain and there are frequently no symptoms before irreversible damage has occurred. Despite constant warnings, we estimate that half of our patients still have little or no lungworm protection as most worming products do not protect against it. A warm, wet Autumn can lead to a late surge in slug and snail populations – ensure to keep your pet protected all year round.

6. Fleas!

If your pets have picked up the odd flea this summer, Autumn is usually when you will know about. As soon as the heating is turned on fleas start breeding in their thousands and fleas living outdoors will soon abandon the cold and wet to make their way indoors. Fleas love crevices in wooden floors as much as carpets and spend very little time on the animal itself – for every one flea on your pet there are usually hundreds more in the house. Most fleas in this area are now resistant to the majority of shop-bought flea products including Johnsons, Frontline, Bob Martins etc so check with us to find an effective and affordable solution.

7. Harvest or Trombiculid mites (‘Chiggers’)

These tiny orange mites appear in the late summer/early Autumn and are real menace for many pets. They feed on dead and dying vegetation in the garden but are equally happy to chew on the skin around the head and neck of cats and between the toes of dogs provoking a severe reaction. Many veterinary flea and parasite treatments will kill the mites but additional treatment may be needed to limit the allergic reaction triggered by their bites.

8. Fungi

Autumn heralds the appearance of numerous species of mushrooms and toadstools. Many dogs will find these very tasty but some species can be extremely poisonous causing severe liver and kidney damage. Symptoms can be varied but can include salivating, vomiting and disorientation/staggering – contact us immediately if you suspect your dog may have eaten anything of this kind.

9. Alabama Rot (Cutaneous and renal glomerular vasculopathy CRGV)

The colder wetter months seem to be associated with a resurgence of this distressing disease about which so little is still known. It is suspected that a toxin of some sort is formed or released from the soil in some areas of the country which then results in kidney failure when inhaled or ingested by dogs. Tell-tale sores on the feet and legs are often the only external sign initially and a quick blood test can help make a diagnosis so if in doubt get us to check as early treatment is essential for any chance of survival. Fortunately the number of cases seen locally has dwindled significantly in the last couple of years so we are hoping that this trend will continue.

10. Fireworks and storms!

Many animals suffer from severe sound phobias and unfortunately for them the firework season seems to extend from October to the New Year these days. Heavy autumnal thunderstorms can also cause severe distress. Seek advice on ways to desensitise your pet and play music during these periods to mask the noise as best possible. Fortunately there are lots of excellent products available now to help calm your pet (ask about Pet Remedy, Nutracalm and Feliway/Adaptil) and in severe cases we can prescribe sedatives and anti-anxiety medication to see your pet through the worst of it.

11. A bumper crop!

Conkers, acorns, crab apples, rose hips and various other autumn fruits can be toxic or in the very least cause severe stomach upsets if ingested in large quantities. Objects such as conkers and pine cones can also cause blockages. Watch your dog closely if they are prone to scavenging to ensure that they are not foraging for hazardous items.

12. Weight gain!

As the days get shorter many dog owners will start to limit the length and duration of walks meaning that on average our patients weigh 10-20% more in the winter than in the summer. Diseases such as arthritis, diabetes and heart/lung disease are all on the increase and associated with obesity. However the availability of affordable low-power LED headtorches, flashing collars and tracking devices means that darkness is no longer an excuse! Cats also tend to sleep a lot more during the winter so encourage them to be more active with toys and encouraging playtime. Monitor your pet’s weight during the winter (free weight checks are available at the surgery) and if in doubt reduce their food by 10-20%.

13. Shedding

Many animals will shed their coat at the end of the summer and start to grow a new thicker winter coat ready for the winter. However the dead hair can form thick matts particularly on the belly and inside the legs which can rub the skin and cause nasty sores. Cats can also end up swallowing large amounts of dead hair which can irritate the stomach lining and even cause blockages. Pay attention to brushing at this time of year and if in doubt consult a professional groomer or make an appointment at the surgery for a ‘de-matt’.

14. Antifreeze

The colder weather and particularly frosts can expose leaks in car radiators which can then start to drip antifreeze onto driveways. Cats often like to sleep under warm car engines in the winter and are very drawn to the sweet taste of ethylene glycol, the main ingredient in car antifreeze. Unfortunately tiny amounts cause irreversible kidney damage in cats. If your car is starting to use any coolant it may be that it is leaking onto your drive – get it checked.

15. Chocolate!

Is chocolate really that dangerous for dogs? Yes! Don’t be tempted to share your festive treats with your dog – it could kill them. Chocolate (which is made from cocoa) contains an ingredient called theobromine which is very toxic to dogs (as well as cats, ferrets, rabbits and rats) affecting the heart, central nervous system and kidneys . The cocoa content of the chocolate determines the risk of toxicity and dark/plain chocolate, cooking chocolate and cocoa powder used in baking carry particularly high risks – 50g of plain chocolate could be fatal to a small dog. Symptoms appear between 4 and 24 hours after ingestion and include vomiting, restlessness, muscle twitching, thirst, drooling and even seizures. If you think your pet may have consumed some chocolate see here to calculate the risk of toxicity and if in doubt call the

16. Grapes and raisins

Present in many festive cakes and treats, the toxic substance that is contained within grapes and raisins is unknown; however in sensitive animals these fruits can cause kidney failure even when consumed in tiny quantities. Pets that already have certain health problems may have an even more serious reaction so this is certainly one to avoid.

17. Rat poison

The fall in temperatures at this time of year encourages mice and rats to search for shelter in our houses, garages and sheds which causes many people to put down poison. Most rodenticides in the UK contain compounds that kill by preventing blood from clotting which results in massive internal haemorrhage (bleeding). Unfortunately they are just as toxic to pets and the effects may be delayed for days to weeks after accidental ingestion. Symptoms include lethargy, panting, pale gums and dark blood in stools – a blood clotting test at the vet can help in making a diagnosis. Prompt treatment is necessary and involves injections of an antidote and in severe cases blood transfusions.

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