Safely enjoy the great outdoors with your pup

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By Kim Gilliam

As we head into fall, many look forward to leaving the hot days of summer behind for brisk autumn temperatures. At this time of year, it is fun to enjoy the great outdoors with your pup.

While the seasonal changes associated with fall have great appeal, they also present potential health hazards for pets. Following are some things owners should be aware of.

Decreased daylight hours: Fewer hours of daylight and evening’s earlier start means that we may be walking or exercising our pups when visibility is poor and it is more challenging for drivers to see animals — and people — in driveways, sidewalks and roads. Use reflective gear, lights or flashlights to make you and your pet more visible.

Fallen leaves: The joy over fall colors quickly dissipates as the endless supply of leaves begins to pile up. Noisy leaf blowers may cause your pet to flee; leaf piles on lawns can accumulate moisture, which promotes bacterial and mold growth that cause upset digestive tracts if ingested; and burning plant material can release smoke and plant-based oils that irritate your pet’s eyes, nose, throat, lungs and skin. It is best to keep your pets indoors while doing yard work.

Polluted puddles: Train your pooch to steer clear of puddles. Standing water is a perfect place for bacteria and parasites to breed. If your pet drinks any of it, they could get seriously ill. Puddles also can contain antifreeze or runoff full of chemicals.

Flying pests: You’ll hear a yelp or yowl if your dog is attacked by a bee, yellow jacket, wasp or hornet. Be sure to caulk cracks around windows, doors and attics, and watch out for burrows where these insects build nests.

If your dog is stung, scrape out the stinger, apply a paste of baking soda and water, and ice the area. An antihistamine also may be needed. Go straight to the vet if they have trouble breathing or lots of swelling.

Birds of prey: Raptors regularly hunt small animals and won’t distinguish between a wild creature and a beloved pet. Most at risk are small animals that spend time outdoors unsupervised. It is recommended that you stay outside with your pet, as a hunting raptor is less likely to attack a small animal with a much larger one — its owner — nearby.

Also, teach pets not to molest birds of any size. A dog that chases birds is much less likely to be wary of an approaching raptor. And if raptors are known to nest or roost nearby, avoid walking pets in that area.

Snakes: Be aware of your surroundings — if you’re going hiking, learn what kind of snakes are common in the area and what times of year they’re most active.

Avoid places snakes like to hang out, like in the bushes just off of trails or in culverts or tall grass. Most snakes are nocturnal, so be particularly careful camping overnight — make your dog stay in the tent with you.

If your dog is bitten, take them to a vet for treatment immediately. Even bites by non-venomous snakes can lead to serious infections because of bacteria in their mouths.

So enjoy the cooler weather. Getting outdoors with your pup can awaken their adventurous spirit, cement your bond and help you both achieve a healthy, natural lifestyle. Just be sure to take the appropriate precautions when doing so.

The writer is the co-owner of Frolick Dogs, an indoor dog gym in the Eisenhower Valley.

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