Low sun, colorful foliage, darkness and wetness – autumn can be as wonderful as it is uncomfortable. The dark season also poses some dangers for dogs from which they should be protected. Here are some tips for fun and safety with your dog in autumn!
Are leaves dangerous for dogs?
Colorful piles of leaves pile up everywhere in autumn. Many dogs enjoy searching and romping around in the rustling leaves. However, it is better not to let dogs dig in piles of leaves that have already been piled up, as these are often popular hibernation homes for hedgehogs. On the one hand, these should not be disturbed, on the other hand, there is a certain risk of injury from violent contact with the hard, sharp hedgehog spines.
Dogs that like to poke their noses into the leaves – looking for an exciting trail or even something to eat – need to keep an eye out. Pointed or sharp-edged objects can lurk under the leaves (e.g. glass in piles of leaves in the city), sometimes four-legged friends also find supposed treats that they shouldn’t eat. Young dogs in particular are sometimes so enthusiastic about their finds that they clean them up on the spot. Chestnuts swallowed in this way can become a classic emergency. They are just big enough to swallow, but then often get stuck in the small intestine, causing a life-threatening intestinal obstruction.
Tip for hidden object games in the foliage
But the dog does not have to be denied romping in the leaves! The solution: Make a pile of fresh leaves yourself from dry leaves – you can also hide a toy there to look for. So the four-legged friend can have fun in the leaves without any risk.
Tip: Think about the visibility of dogs in autumn
Both the first walk in the morning and those later in the afternoon must take place in the dark in autumn and winter – there is an increased risk of accidents! Appropriate lighting for the dog is therefore mandatory: light collars make the dog visible to car drivers, cyclists and other walkers from afar. They are available in almost all colors and sizes.
Autumn and rain: is it bad if a dog gets wet?
In our latitudes, autumn is predominantly wet – dogs and owners are not spared. Basically, a bit of rain is not a problem for dogs. But just as we humans freeze in wet clothes, so does the dog with wet fur, and the faster the colder the weather. To keep dogs from catching cold, it’s important to keep moving during a walk in the rain. This keeps the circulation going and the body warm. When you get home, the dog’s fur should be dried thoroughly with a towel: Don’t forget the areas between the toes and the ears (especially if you have lop ears). A hair dryer can also be used to dry the dog’s fur, provided the dog is not afraid of it. Always check the temperature with your hand and blow dry at a sufficient distance (approx. 40 cm) from the dog to avoid burns.
When is a dog coat useful?
A healthy dog does not usually need special dog clothing when the autumn temperatures are moderate. However, certain breeds with a very short coat or little undercoat freeze more easily. These include, for example, Greyhounds, Salukis, Chihuahuas and French Bulldogs. In addition, old or sick dogs cool down more easily. For these dogs, a rain-repellent, warming dog coat or sweater makes sense. In frosty temperatures, it is also advisable to plan shorter but more frequent dog walks.
When do dogs get a winter coat?
As temperatures begin to drop in the fall, many dogs develop a sturdier winter coat with more undercoat. However, how pronounced the winter coat grows in a dog depends on the breed, some breeds develop almost no winter coat at all. Usually, the change of coat is announced in autumn with increased hair loss, then a correspondingly intensive coat care with more frequent brushing is required. Otherwise there is a risk of tangles and sometimes itching. Once the winter coat has developed, it protects the dog well from wet and cold. In order for it to retain its function, however, the dog should not be bathed in winter if possible.
Parasite protection: Also necessary in autumn and winter?
In fact, the “rule” of a tick season, which runs from March to October, is passé for most areas in Germany. The meanwhile mild winter temperatures make it possible: some species of ticks are still active at temperatures of 4 degrees Celsius. There is a particular risk for dogs in diseases transmitted by ticks, such as Lyme disease, TBE or babesiosis. Experts therefore recommend year-round parasite protection.
Paw protection in snow and road salt
Even if snow is not that common anymore: If the landscape is covered with a white cotton blanket, it is important to carefully protect the paws of the four-legged friend. It can be helpful to grease the paws before going for a walk (e.g. with milking grease or a suitable paw cream). Chunks of ice should be removed from the fur after the walk. So that road salt does not irritate the skin on the pads and between the toes, it is good to rinse the paws with lukewarm water after walking them. Then dry thoroughly and apply cream again if necessary.
Food and Exercise: Avoid winter fat
Not only people tend to put on a few pounds over the winter. If the walks are shorter, the body lacks movement and uses less energy. If the fur nose still gets its usual ration, weight gain is inevitable. If the dog is significantly more passive in autumn and winter, its energy supply should be adjusted accordingly.
On the other hand, dogs that spend a lot of time outdoors in cold temperatures (e.g. working dogs) do the opposite: they need more energy to maintain their body temperature. In this case, high-energy food or an increase in the daily ration may be appropriate.
Author: Pascale Huber, veterinarian, editor-in-chief, vetproduction GmbH
Date: November 2022
Kohn, B., Schwarz, G.: Internship at the dog clinic. Thieme Verlag 2018
Federal Chamber of Veterinarians: https://www.bundestieraerztekammer.de (accessed: November 2022)
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