Autumn is a truly beautiful time of year – the trees are turning to glorious golds and the weather is crisp. However, here are some things we need to be aware of to ensure our pets stay happy and healthy as the seasons change.
Firstly, keep up your flea protection! Turning on the central heating means our homes become their ideal environment when it is too cold for them outside.
Continue to treat your pets and come and talk to us about how to protect your home as well. Harvest mites and ticks (see below) also thrive at this time of year and again we are happy to advise you on how to prevent problems.
Autumn is the prime time of year for ticks as they thrive when the weather is still mild, but moist. They are particularly prevalent in areas with livestock, especially sheep, and where the undergrowth is thick, waiting to hop on to passing pets as they brush by.
Ticks will attach themselves to your pet and feed on their blood for several days. Although pets are rarely bothered by them, they can leave skin irritations behind and have the potential to pass on some nasty infections. Ticks can spread; Lyme Disease, an inflammatory infection which causes lameness and fever; Babesiosis, which can lead to life-threatening anaemia; and Erlichiosis which also attacks red blood cells and can be fatal. The latter two conditions are particularly prevalent abroad, so if you take your dog abroad on holiday, it is essential to protect them against ticks.
Pets should be monitored daily for ticks and if any ticks are found, these should be promptly removed with a specially designed tick remover. Treatments and preventions for ticks are available as spot-ons, tablets and collars and are generally very effective
The lungworm parasite - Angiostrongylus vasorum - has been present in the UK and Ireland for at least 40 years, in patches or “hotspots”. However, it is now spreading north across the British Isles and is thought to be more common than ever before. While still relatively uncommon in the North, new cases are being diagnosed all the time - and autumn is one key time when they spread.
Lungworms are spread by slugs and snails, which act as intermediate hosts and infect dogs if they are eaten - accidentally or on purpose! This means that disease is most common in younger dogs who eat or play with molluscs, and those dogs that eat or drink outside, who may have had infected slime trails left across their bowls. The mild, wet conditions of later summer and early autumn are ideal for the slugs and snails to thrive, hence why we need to be on the alert at this time of year.
Adult worms live in the heart (hence the other name, “French Heartworm”) and the blood vessels leading to the lungs. The larvae burrow through the lungs, and may cause bronchitis, heart failure, and spontaneous bleeding as the dog’s clotting system is damaged. Affected dogs usually become lethargic, go off their food, cough, and may vomit or pass blood. The disease is so severe that it can prove fatal.
Fortunately, it is easy to prevent - monthly worming with certain prescription-only spot-ons or tablets will prevent any larvae from developing, preventing infection from occurring.
Cats also have a variety of lungworm, with the glorious name “Aelurostrongylus abstrusus”, and a similar life-cycle - but fortunately they very rarely cause disease.
Cars often have antifreeze added to their engines around now which means bottles are often left out and spillages can occur. Unfortunately, cats find it very tasty despite the fact it is highly toxic and often fatal. Make sure you keep anti-freeze well out of reach, clean up drips and if you think they might have ingested some, bring them to us immediately.
Outdoor-living pets like rabbits or guinea pigs are usually able to cope fine as winter approaches, but we can help by ensuring their cages are free from drafts and that they have enough bedding to create a cosy snug bed. However, they still should have as much freedom as possible, so do keep allowing them outdoor access in a secure run - they are active creatures and will be miserable if cooped up for months.
For some dogs, they can seem like a fun plaything or tasty snacks! However, they are poisonous, causing nasty tummy upsets, and can potentially lead to dangerous blockages in the intestines.