Fall into Safe Habits
My dogs always loved being outside in the fall. Like me, they hated the heat. My dog Winston would love to sit with me on our back deck in the afternoon and just sniff the air while my other dog Ben would purposefully run back and forth through the pile of leaves just to hear the weird, crunchy sounds they would make. That dog would consistently crack me up because he acted like he had never seen fall leaves on the ground even though he had every year of his life
Fall is also a great time to revisit some safety measures to make sure that your dog enjoys the season as well. There are so many things that we as pet parents can do to ensure our dog’s health and well-being as the seasons change. Here are some of my best tips:
1. Fleas, Ticks, and Heartworm: Be sure to keep up with these preventative medications during the fall months. A lot of people believe that it can be skipped as soon as September rolls around but that isn’t the case at all. Depending on where you live, fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes may be prevalent all year long. For some dogs, a flea bite can develop into a full-blown hotspot or they can lose their hair in that area altogether which used to happen to my dog Rocky. A bite from a tick can cause scary diseases like Canine Anaplasmosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, or Lyme Disease to name just a few. I think the nastiest of all is heartworm which is caused by an infected mosquito. I once saw a photo of what it actually looked like in the chest cavity and I have never skipped a dose for my dogs since then. It scarred me for life. I know that these medications get very costly but the vet bills from treating a disease and the ensuing heartache watching your dog suffer costs a lot more. As always, ask your veterinarian which medication is right for your dog.
2. Grooming: This is important for all breeds. As the seasons change, so does your dog’s grooming requirements. Depending on the breed of dog you have, you may want to get a nice haircut or just a bath and brush-out. Groomers can also recommend a soothing shampoo and skin conditioner to help with dry skin that often sometimes accompanies colder weather. If you bathe your dog at home and are nervous about cutting your dog’s nails, a groomer can assist with that. Most grooming shops have appointments just for a nail trim. Your groomer can clip your dog’s nails and shave down the fur between the dog’s pads of her foot if you request it. Some breeds don’t require this but a good groomer always checks. Once, I found some burdock and tar stuck between a Lab’s toe pads. Ouch! That must have hurt! I was lucky that I was able to get it out or that would have been a visit to the vet for sure.
3.Back to School: My dog Benny was a pen and pencil thief. I am not sure what it was about writing utensils he liked so much but it drove us crazy. I could never leave one out or he’d pounce on it and run away. What was worse were the times when he didn’t pounce. He would just be sneaky about stealing it and then take it to a secondary location to hide it under his bed or destroy it in a matter he saw fit. I would find the remains later on in the day and by then it was too late. To this day, I can’t believe he didn’t have to have major abdominal surgery to remove whatever he accidentally swallowed. Some dogs aren’t so lucky. Abdominal surgery is costly and some owners just can’t afford it so they are forced to euthanize their pet. To avoid this, teach your kids, especially the little ones, to put away their school supplies when they are done using them. To further motivate your school-age kids, buy a fun organizer for their bedroom so that everything has a place to go when it is time for cleaning up.
4. Halloween : If at all possible, take your dog on a good long walk before any trick-or-treaters arrive at your home. A tired dog may be able to handle the stress of the door bell ringing better than one who is all wound up. Remind any young children or forgetful adults that dogs can’t have chocolate or raisins for that matter because they can get very sick. Why not put it in a sealed container in the cupboard instead? A handy tip is to put each child’s name on their container with a dry erase marker. You may have a dog that has a cast iron stomach but why take that chance of him getting into any candy. Also, keep your dog inside for the night. There are some horrible people out there that love to play pranks on unsuspecting dogs. Lastly, a staggering amount of dogs get loose on Halloween night. To increase your chances of finding your beloved animal, why not invest in an ID tag? Yellow Dog Design has a wonderful assortment to choose from.
5. Adequate Shelter: There are parts of the country that just get pounded with snow in late fall. In November 2014, Buffalo, N.Y. saw a storm that dropped five to seven feet of lake-effect snow on them over the course of a week. Can you even imagine? I know this is an extreme example, but things like this do happen. Keep an eye on the temperature as the weeks pass in the autumn season. It may dip down to frightfully cold temperatures. Make sure your dog has a nice warm place to sleep with an adequate water supply. Bring them indoors if need be. Frostbite is very real for pets as it is for us.
6. Reflective Gear: Last October when I was coming home from the grocery store at about 7:30 at night, my life flashed before my eyes. I nearly hit a man and his dog. The incident shook me up a bit, but thank goodness I slammed on the brakes or else the story would have ended badly. As I looked back at him in my rear view mirror, I could not believe how this man decided to dress. He was wearing a black coat, with dark pants and black boots. Guess what color the dog was? If you guessed black, then you are right. Why all black??? It was as if he was a dog-walking ninja. So to all you drivers out there, remember this story and please be on the look out for dog-walking ninjas. They can pop out of nowhere. To all of my dog-walking ninjas out there, do me a favor and put on a reflective vest. It may put a damper on your ninja vibe, but it may save your life and the life of your dog one day. Just sayin’.
I do want to add a disclaimer that this advice does not replace the professional opinion of your veterinarian. It is also not a substitute for proper dog training. Dogs have individual needs and circumstances so please rely on the advice of your personal veterinarian, dog trainer, and groomer for any questions you may have. Following this advice is not a guarantee of injury-free life for your dog. Be vigilant and educate yourself. While you rely on the advice of professionals, your dog ultimately relies on you for his safety and security.