Ten ways to keep our four-legged friends safe this autumn

Autumn is a lovely time of year to enjoy time outside with our pets. The weather is cooler and we no longer need to worry about heatstroke or burnt paws on hot pavements but this time of year still holds its own dangers for our furry friends. We look at a Top Ten of seasonal troubles and how to avoid them.
Yellow Labrador Retriever Sitting on Brown Dried Leaves

Darker nights

The end of summertime means that many of us are walking our pets in the dark.  While road traffic accidents can occur all year round, the risks are increased with reduced visibility and poor weather, so consider reflective clothing for you and your pet, such as hi-viz coats or collars. Light-up collars and harness attachments also help to keep you safe on your night-time strolls.


Lots of dogs enjoy playing with things they find when out and about. Puppies especially explore the world with their mouths, but watch out for conkers! Eaten in large quantities they can be toxic, causing drooling and retching, sickness and diarrhoea. They can also become lodged in the narrow small bowel, causing a blockage. Emergency surgery may be needed to save the gut if they don’t pass on their own, so they are best avoided.


Acorns typically fall from the oak trees in the autumn months. Like conkers, they can cause intestinal blockages and upset guts for dogs if they are swallowed. Eaten in large quantities, the toxins in acorns can cause damage to the liver and kidneys, causing severe illness and possibly permanent organ damage – so they are best left to the jays and the squirrels to gather and cache them!

Decaying plant material

The sight of our pets gambolling through fallen leaves is a joyful one. Take care though where piled-up leaves have started to decay, as the bacteria and moulds produced can cause serious tummy upsets if eaten. Piles of leaves may also contain unseen objects, such as sharp sticks, which could injure an unsuspecting pet.


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At this time of year, mushrooms and toadstools grow from decaying plant matter in our woodlands and even on our lawns. Most are harmless if eaten but a few are highly poisonous, causing life-threatening damage to the kidneys and liver. Since even the experts struggle to know which is which, it’s best to avoid them entirely.

Seasonal plants and bulbs

Many plants can cause illness in our pets if chewed or eaten, with symptoms ranging from mild tummy upsets to dizziness, internal bleeding and organ damage.  Out on your autumn rambles, it’s best to avoid Yew and Horse Chestnut trees. Turning your attention to the garden, the bulbs of daffodils, hydrangeas and autumn crocus are toxic to our pets, causing drooling and tummy upsets if chewed and eaten or, swallowed whole,  the possibility of  intestinal blockages.

Many varieties of lilies pose a danger to our feline friends. All parts of the offending plant can be toxic, including the leaves, petals and especially the pollen when present, since cats that brush against the flower may groom this off themselves. Effects vary from mild vomiting and diarrhoea to fatal kidney damage, so if your cat is thought to have come into contact with lilies, it’s best to contact your vet immediately for advice and possible treatment.


The seasons of Halloween and Christmas often mean more chocolate in our homes. Chocolate isn’t dangerous for humans (except to our waistlines, perhaps!) but can be deadly if eaten by our cats and dogs. It contains a chemical called theobromine which has similar effects to that of caffeine for us but which our pets can’t cope with.

Chocolate ingestion in dogs causes anything from a racing heart with restlessness and hyperactivity to vomiting and diarrhoea, incoordination and seizures. The higher the cocoa content, the more dangerous it is, so as little as 40g of dark chocolate (about 3-4 squares) can be life-threatening to a small breed dog weighing around 10kg.

Grapes and raisins

Grape Fruits

With Christmas round the corner and with it, the prospect of a nice slice of fruit cake, it is worth noting that grapes and raisins can be exceedingly toxic to our furry friends. The toxic substance in grapes and raisins is unknown, but eating even a small number of raisins (or sultanas or currants) can cause severe illness. Signs include vomiting, diarrhoea and lethargy, and, in a small number of pets, serious and often irreversible kidney damage.

Fallen fruit

In the autumn months the unpicked fruits of summer fall from the trees and are of interest to our dogs. Unfortunately, these once edible treats can cause problems if eaten now, even in small quantities. As fruit ferments, it produces alcohol, which can cause severe vomiting and illness. The pips and stones can also cause serious illness, either due to intestinal blockage by the larger stones, or from toxins which can cause tummy upsets, dizziness and breathing difficulties. 

Antifreeze and road salt

Antifreeze contains ethylene glycol, which has a sweet taste and is extremely dangerous to pets. Unusually, it’s being taken more by cats than by dogs, as they often have free range of their environment, more access to puddles of spilt or leaked antifreeze and also may simply groom it from their paws. Pets who’ve eaten antifreeze often appear drunk before they become dull and depressed. Without swift and aggressive treatment, ethylene glycol ingestion can be fatal, so it’s essential that any spilt antifreeze is cleaned up immediately and containers of antifreeze are stored out of reach of pets and children.

Rock salt, used by the gritters to prevent ice on our roads and pavements, can cause contact irritation to our pets’ paws (especially breeds with hairy feet) and tummy upsets if ingested. Getting into the habit of washing and drying paws after a winter walk helps to avoid the problem.

Rat poison

As the weather gets colder and food sources get scarce, mice and rats begin to look for warmer spots to spend the winter, bringing them into closer contact with our homes and prompting us to lay down poisons called rodenticides. Most of these contain anti-coagulants, which when eaten (even in very small quantities) can cause massive internal bleeding.

If you realise quickly that your dog may have eaten rat poison, your vet can induce vomiting by an injection, getting at least some of the lethal bait out of the system. The pet can then take medications which counter the effects of any remaining anti-coagulant.

If some time has passed since the poison was ingested, the resultant bleeding can be life- threatening and a blood transfusion may be needed to save your pet.

We hope these tips help keep your pets safe whilst out and about this autumn. If you would like a discuss any concerns you may have with an experienced vet from the comfort of your own home, book a consultation with one of the team at Vet on the Net today.