The kids are heading back to school, so it’s the perfect time for pet owners to do a little homework of your own. Learn what you can do to help keep your pet safe this fall, because autumn can bring unique hazards that pose a risk to pet health.
Dispose of Yard Toxins
Do you have a dog or cat that likes to nibble in the yard? Some mushrooms, such as the appropriately named “death cap mushroom,” can be extremely toxic — even deadly — to dogs and cats. It’s best to root out any mushrooms before your pet does.
Plants that bloom in the fall, such as clematis, autumn crocus and chrysanthemum, can also be poisonous if eaten. And those tulip, hyacinth or daffodil bulbs you just planted? They contain concentrated toxins. Best to fence off that area to prevent dogs from digging them up. The same goes for composting areas, filled with molding food and decomposing plants that can contain toxins dangerous to pets and wildlife.
Make sure to pick up fruit that drops to the ground, because some stems, leaves and seeds (such as those associated with apples) can be toxic. Fruit pits and acorns, if accidentally swallowed, can be choking hazards or lead to a digestive tract obstruction that may require surgery.
Pet toxins in the garage, such as antifreeze, lawn fertilizers, weed killers and paints, should be up on a shelf where pets can’t get at them.
Stash Lunch Bags and Backpacks
After school, kids often leave lunch bags and backpacks on the couch or floor where curious pets can explore them. These can contain items that can be poisonous to pets such as leftover grapes and raisins as well as sugar-free gum containing xylitol, medications and batteries.
Some school supplies, such as pencils, magic markers and glue sticks, can be mildly toxic if eaten, but they may also lead to choking or an obstruction. Help avoid a problem by putting lunch bags and backpacks out of reach.
Hide Mouse and Rat Poisons
In the fall, field mice and other rodents may venture into your home seeking refuge from the cooler temperatures. While rodenticides can dispatch of these pests, they can have the same deadly effect on dogs and cats if inadvertently eaten.
If you suspect that your pet has eaten any of these poisons, seek veterinary help immediately. Since there are different types of rodenticides, it’s helpful to bring the product packaging with you so the doctor can identify the type of ingredient and choose the appropriate treatment faster.
What if your pet eats a mouse that has potentially ingested the poison? Depending on the product ingredient, the size of the pet and the amount of poison consumed, it could be a problem. When in doubt, call your veterinarian or, if your vet is unavailable, call poison control.
Better yet, you can eliminate the temptation to eat rodenticides by placing them in rooms and cupboards pets can’t access.
When there’s a nip in the air, there’s no better time for a crackling fire and glowing candles. Help protect dogs and cats from sparks and shooting embers with glass fireplace screens. And keep candles up high so pets can’t get whiskers or tails near the flames.
Stow Holiday Foods and Decorations
Think you’re tempted by bowls of Halloween candy? Your pets can be, too. But chocolates and other sweets can be toxic or lead to pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas. Keep candy locked away from pets.
Halloween decorations can also be problematic. Corncobs, if eaten, can cause gastrointestinal blockages. Carved pumpkins with lit candles can put pets at risk of burns. And playful cats can swallow strings dangling from decorations. So take the steps to pet-proof your decorations, too.
If you want to know more about pet toxins, download the free mobile app from the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center. In addition to descriptions of toxins, the app includes a “chocolate wheel” to help you learn which types of chocolate are most dangerous and how much can be a problem for your pet. It’ll help you prepare for the season that’s just around the corner.