Fall Is Upon Us: 8 Steps to Prep Your Pup!
Fall is a favorite time of year for many. The color of the leaves seem to change as fast as the temperature and this means it’s time to prepare yourself, and your pup, for the season ahead.
As nature begins her beautiful transition from the heat of the summer to the crisp cold of winter, there are actions you can take today to confront the challenges awaiting you in the days and weeks ahead.
Here are eight common-sense steps to ensure you and your pup have a wonderful and safe autumn.
1. Protect your pup’s paws.
While we trade in sandals for our favorite pair of shoes, after a summer of fun your pup’s paws aren’t so lucky. The sizzling heat can really do a number on paw pads. Days on sultry sandy beaches and afternoon runs on piping hot pavement have likely left those pads cracked, chapped, and maybe even injured.
Begin this new season by giving your pup a little pampering and repair those pads. A simple home remedy is to rub on some petroleum jelly. It takes a few minutes for the jelly to be worked in, so it is important to ensure your pup avoids ingesting any of it by keeping his favorite chew toy or snack at the ready.
If petroleum jelly is a bit too messy, most pet supply stores carry paw pad balm, waxes, and creams to provide paw protection. These are great to keep on hand all year and often contain additional vitamins to help the pads heal faster and stronger. Should your pup have any visible cracking, try antibiotic gels to relieve any soreness and speed the healing process.Of course in the case of pus or bleeding, seek treatment from your veterinarian.
To prevent your pooch’s paws from getting cracked and broken in the winter, due to the salt that’s often tossed all over streets in snow-heavy regions, try a pair of dog booties. Not all dogs take well to booties, but if you can get them on your dog, they’ll keep your canine’s furry feet safe through the winter (and prevent your pup from tracking snow and sludge around your house).
2. Kid-proof your pup.
With fall comes a new school year. It’s a fresh start for kids and parents but brings along new hazards for your dog. If you have children, it won’t be long until little Jimmy’s science project has taken over the kitchen table.
What are simple school supplies for your child may look like toys and snacks to your dog. Take the time to find a safe place for supplies such as markers, pens, rulers, and any other potential choking hazards.And especially keep glue and glued together projects far away from dogs, as some have acquired a taste for glue, which can cause gastrointestinal issues.
If you don’t have children, it is important to be aware of those in your neighborhood. For the first few weeks of the new school year, as students begin their daily trek to and from school, make sure your dog avoids being startled by the new traffic. And should your dog be a bit skittish of new people, it may be prudent to start your daily walks earlier or later to avoid putting him in a high-stress situation of young children.
Then there is Halloween. Candy and costumes pose a double threat to your pup. Although candy is never a good snack for dogs, chocolate is an especially high-risk food which can cause the onset of theobromine poising. Consuming chocolate could result in minor tremors to full-fledged heart attacks in dogs. Keep your candy stored safe and away from your pets.
And if that isn’t scary enough, be extra careful when costuming your canine for Halloween, as loose strings, straps, fasteners, movable parts, or any other item could become tripping or choking hazards!
3. See and be seen.
Sometimes it is the little things in life we savor the most, like the extra hour of sleep we gain from the end of daylight savings time. In exchange, however, autumn ushers in shorter days and longer nights. Before we know it, the afternoon walk has become a night-time stroll without the sun’s glow.
Couple the darkening sky with more the inclement fall weather, your safety depends on not only your ability to see but making sure others can see you. Fortunately, today’s marketplace is awash of reflective clothing and accessories.
Both you and your dog should wear highly reflective materials which can include most anything from stylish outerwear and LED dog collars, to simple reflective tape. To make sure neither of you takes a wrong step, take along a flashlight to light your path and provide another way for others to see you.
4. Watch out for fleas and ticks.
The cooler weather usually brings a respite from insects. Most bees and wasps have begun settling into hibernation and those annoying mosquitos have finally succumbed to the temperature drop. But not all bothersome insects have disappeared just yet.
Fleas and ticks, on the other hand, are looking for warm places to hide before the first sustained freeze arrives. You and your pup are perfect targets. Vegetation provides the perfect cover for these little buggers and will jump at the opportunity if either you or your four-legged-friend get close enough. And even if you are careful enough to stay away from bushes, shrubs, and grass on your daily walks, your neighbor’s pet may just be a temporary residence until your pooch provides them a better place to live.
It is recommended to continue your pet’s flea and tick treatment all year. This includes through the winter, just in case a stowaway makes their way into your home. Lastly, until winter takes a firm grip, continue visually checking for ticks as they have a knack for hitching a ride when you least expect it.
5. Be ready for allergies.
There are many plants which release potential allergens into the air as they start to go into hibernation. Like humans, the allergens can cause sneezing, red eyes, ear infections, excessive paw licking, and skin irritation.
Be on the lookout for signs your dog may be affected by allergies. While sneezing and coughing may be obvious indications of potential reactions, others can be more difficult to spot. Dogs often display allergic reactions through their skin, so if you see a lot of licking and excessive skin gnawing, something might be up.
Many owners assume that dog food allergies are to blame for their pooch’s suffering, but dogs can suffer from inhalant allergies too. In fact, food allergies only account for around 10% of allergies in dogs. Dogs are more likely to be allergic to flea bites and environmental allergens humans have issue with – like dust, pollen, or mold.
Usually, symptoms from allergies are seasonal and will appear at about the same time each year. However, dogs can become allergic to different allergens as they age. In addition, keep in mind mold can also cause similar symptoms even though your dog may not be allergic to it.
The only way to diagnose atopic allergies in your pup is to have a relatively simple skin test performed by your veterinarian. It is important to consult with your veterinarian before you give any over the counter medication which could make symptoms worse or have other detrimental effects.
Fortunately, most remedies come in the form of creams or shampoos, while more severe cases could require a steroid or other medication.
6. Watch your step.
The fallen leaves, although beautiful, can hide a number of hazards for dogs and their owners. Unless you’re built your very own leaf pile, it is a safe bet to steer clear of covered ground. Underneath the cover could be potentially dangerous objects, plants, and animals that could harm your pup if left to tromp through excitedly.
From small objects, such as sharp rocks or sticks, to larger ones such as an entire fire hydrant hidden from view, physical injury is a real concern when making your way through the leaves. If you absolutely must wade through fallen leaves, take it slow and steady using very deliberate steps.
Taking your time to pass through twigs and tree leaves, however, still won’t protect you and your dog from other possible dangers. Poison ivy and poison oak are much more difficult to identify among all the vegetation now finding its way to the ground. And even if you do identify poisonous plants, just because they look dead doesn’t mean they still can’t pack a painful punch.
Finally, leaf piles are also the perfect hiding place for critters. If for no other reason to avoid them, it would be knowing rats or snakes could be lurking nearby. Fall is known assnakebite season!As these animals are preparing for the cold winter ahead, they tend to be much more defensive than they might otherwise be during other times of the year.
7. Keep your pup hydrated.
The cooler weather doesn’t reduce your dog’s need to drink plenty of water. Just like humans, their bodies are made up of mostly water, nearly 70% of it. And when they are not drinking enough water, they can and will get dehydrated.
Becoming dehydrated is very dangerous. For us humans, we take in quite a bit of water through the food we consume, especially from fruits and vegetables. For our pets, however, their daily diet of kibbles and other dry foods make it extremely important to keep an eye on their water intake.
On average, a healthy dog should drink between one-half to a full ounce of water per pound of body weight per day. This means you should make water available as much as you can.
When heading outside, bring water with you along with a bowl to make it easier for your dog to drink. As the weather nears freezing, you will sometimes see public access to water fountains or hydrants shut off to prevent freezing.
8. Make exercise a priority.
The new fall television lineup is out, football season is in full swing, and the nip in the air makes it all the more tempting to snuggle up next to the fire instead of going for your evening walk. Don’t give in! Not only will your health suffer, so will your dog’s.
Exercise is critical to your canine’s overall health, and it isn’t uncommon for the amount of exercise everyone receives to diminish in the fall and winter months. But by sticking to your routine, it will be easier for both of you to avoid weight gain, keep your cardiovascular systems in strong working order, and maintain joint flexibility.
When the weather doesn’t allow for outdoor exercise, try finding indoor activities to keep your pup engaged. This can include indoor fetch, if space allows, or interactive dog puzzle toys.
Natural chews are also good choices as food consumption can often increase as the temperature decreases. A hearty deer antler will keep him occupied enough to resist the temptation of all the holiday foods.
Autumn is a fantastic time of year to spend with your friends and family, including those with fur! We sincerely hope these tips will prepare you and your dog for a safe, healthy, and enjoyable fall season.
Are there any special steps you take with your pup to ready for autumn? We’d love to hear about them in the comments below.
About The Author: Meg Marrs is the Senior Editor atK9 of Mine. When she’s not cuddling with pups at the dog park, Meg can be found lounging in a papasan chair with a good book.