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6 Autumn dangers dogs need humans to know about

We give you the rundown on the top potential hazards for dogs this season and how best to avoid them

6 Autumn dangers dogs need humans to know about

Lovely autumnal walks are the perfect opportunity for bonding with your furry best friend. But it is crucial for dog owners to understand some of the risks autumn brings and how best to avoid them.

From conkers, acorns and poisonous plants to antifreeze, we’ve asked the Veterinary Poisons Information Service (VPIS) – an expert team of qualified vets, vet nurses and toxicologists – to let you know the dangers you should be aware of to avoid an expensive trip to the vet this autumn.

With additional information provided by the Blue Cross, we’re here to show you the warning signs to look for and how best to help your dog if they become poorly or injured.

Plus, we reveal some fantastic pet-safe alternatives so your pup can keep thoroughly enjoying their playtime.


Your dog won’t even want to sniff out the Halloween chocs once it’s been fed from one of the best dog food brands.


The top autumnal hazards for dogs

1. Conkers and acorns

These can choke or poison your dog if swallowed. Lodged conkers may require surgery to remove and, if ingested, can cause vomiting, diarrhoea or even death.

Other signs of poisoning include lethargy, restlessness and loss of appetite.

2. Decaying plant matter

This includes the mould on fallen fruit or compost, which can cause sickness, twitching and tremors. Apples can also produce alcohol when they rot, leaving your dog at risk of alcohol poisoning.

Note that wild mushrooms grow from decay and some varieties can cause your dog to become ill.

‘Many mushrooms cause only mild gastrointestinal upset, but some can cause severe and rapid onset vomiting, diarrhoea, salivation and low heart rate. Some mushrooms cause hallucinations or kidney or liver damage. Each year we have a few fatal cases of mushroom poisoning in dogs.’

– Veterinary Poisons Information Service 

3. Poisonous seasonal plants

Species such as the yew tree, cherry laurel, horse chestnut and autumn crocus bulbs can be risky. If chewed on and ingested, these can cause dizziness, vomiting, internal bleeding and organ damage – so keep a close eye out on your woodland walks.

4. Antifreeze, rock salt and de-icers

These may come in handy when defrosting your car and driveway, but these chemicals can be toxic to dogs. Ingestion of large quantities of salt can also cause salt poisoning, so make sure these are stored safely away from prying puppy eyes.

‘Antifreeze can contain ethylene glycol which can cause renal failure in pets. Initial signs of ethylene glycol poisoning are non-specific (e.g. vomiting and lethargy) and can be easily missed.’

Veterinary Poisons Information Service

5. Potentially harmful foods

It’s not only chocolate at Halloween that can make your dog very poorly. Although the flesh of apples is safe to eat, the pips contain a small amount of cyanide, so remove the cores before feeding to your dog.

Plus raisins, currents and sultanas can cause kidney failure, so take care not to spill any while making your Christmas pudding.

6. Traffic hazards

Road incidents can happen all year round, but the reduced visibility and poorer weather conditions during this time of year can make it hard for drivers to see you walking with your pooch. Consider using reflective safety gear so you and your pet can keep exploring, even after it gets dark.

Keep your precious pup safe and close by with one of the best dog harnesses of 2021.

What to do if you think your pet has been hurt or poisoned

Cases of severe pet poisonings in autumn are rare but they do still happen. It’s vital to know the steps to take if you suspect your pet is unwell or injured.

The Veterinary Poisons Information Service recommends the following:

  • If your pet is showing signs of poisoning, such as collapse, severe tremors or convulsions, take your pet to the vet immediately
  • Do not try to make your pet vomit and never give them salt water (it can be lethal)
  • If you are unsure if a visit to your vet is necessary, call your vet or the Animal PoisonLine (01202 509 000, charges apply) for advice.

For more information on poisoning in dogs, see advice from VPIS through its Animal PoisonLine leaflet.

Safe seasonal activities to enjoy with your dog

Although there are risks to be aware of, autumn can still be an ideal time to go on adventures and treat your pup to some seasonal food and fun. You could:

Take a long hike with your four-legged friend. The cooler harvest-season temperature means dogs can run and play for longer with less risk of overheating – so more games of fetch to be had!

Feed them some autumnal treats like unsweetened pumpkin, cooked and skinless sweet potato, cooked butternut squash, apples with the pips and core removed, corn and carrots. 

Go to a pumpkin patch so you can pick your Halloween pumpkin and your dog gets a nice walk! Bear in mind, not all farms are dog-friendly, so search online or call ahead to make sure pets are allowed.

Have an outdoor photoshoot in the autumn sunshine. It’s the time of year to make the most of the beautiful changing scenery, so why not take some timeless pics with your furry best friend? Or, if your pooch doesn’t mind it, get dressed up in your best Halloween costumes for some spooky snaps.

Make memories that will last forever with our tips on how to take great photos of your dog.


With thanks to the Veterinary Poisons Information Service (VPIS) and the Blue Cross for their expert information included in this article.

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