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Autumn brings new challenges to pet owners - and once the clocks go back, it can be a real struggle. So, in this article we’re going to try and give you some tips for managing this most difficult of seasons!

What are the hazards?

There are a number of specific seasonal risks, most importantly:

Light levels - with darkness falling earlier, it’s harder and harder to raise the enthusiasm to get outside and exercise our pets! In addition, going out in the dark increases the risk of accidents (cars can’t see you well on a dark foggy evening, for example), or in some areas, risks to personal safety. But if we don’t get out and about, our pets’ fitness falls and their waistlines tend to expand - putting them at increased risk of a number of health conditions, including arthritis, respiratory problems, and possibly even heart disease.

Weather conditions - to be blunt, it’s getting wetter and colder. Again, this makes it hard for us to get out and about, but it also means that free-roaming pets (like cats) are unlikely to exercise themselves. Instead, they’re likely to find a warm spot and curl up in it - potentially getting into trouble if that warm spot is on the engine block of your car, or in a shed or building that gets locked up at night. Of course, the opposite problem is also quite possible - cold, exposure and frostbite can all be dangerous, especially to older or ill pets. Finally, there’s the problem of balancing the calories - feed too much and they put on weight, but feed too little and animals can really struggle to maintain weight and health.

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Poisoning - most responsible drivers will be topping up the antifreeze in their cars over the next month or so - but unfortunately, this substance (ethylene glycol) is lethal to cats, dogs and other animals (and small children, for that matter). If ingested, it leads to kidney failure, which may be irreversible. There’s also the problem that we have a couple of holidays coming up… with lots of strange and exciting foods lying around! But Halloween candy often contains chocolate (toxic to dogs and cats), and sometimes the artificial sweetener xylitol (toxic to dogs, causing dangerously low blood sugar and liver failure). And on that note, watch out for...

Strange behaviour - not by our pets, but our neighbours! Visitors in strange costumes can be very stressful to our pets.

Fireworks - every year we talk about this - because there are so many pets who suffer from firework or noise phobias! They become stressed, even terrified, and this may lead to overgrooming, dangerous escape attempts, running away, or even aggression.

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What can we do about them?

Well, for starters, make sure you do get out and about, whatever the weather! However, it is wise to invest in a reflective vest or jacket for yourself and even a reflective collar and lead for your dog. If you take your dog to a safe area where he can run off lead, you can purchase small flashing lights that are attached to the dog’s collar so you can see where he is and when he stops for a poo! Using a good torch, and letting people know when you’re expected back are also wise precautions.

Make sure cats have a warm and SAFE place to curl up in bad weather, and always check under the bonnet - or give a good toot on the horn - to make sure you’re not starting up the car with a cat wrapped around the engine. If it’s really cold, boots for dogs and even coats can help keep them warm, and avoid frostbite. Also, make sure you monitor your pets closely for signs of weight gain or loss, and adjust their food accordingly.

All antifreeze should be disposed of responsibly - and if you spill any, wash it away so it isn’t a tasty tempting puddle for pets! Human food should, as always, be kept out of reach of pets - and this is even more important when there are children around who might not be so careful. If pets are afraid of the unexpected (and strangely dressed!) visitors, make them a safe den with a favourite blanket (and possibly some treats!) to hide away in, where they feel comfortable.

The same advice applies to fireworks - make sure you know when local displays will be and always keep your pet indoors when fireworks are being let off. Close all windows and doors, draw the curtains, switch on the lights and put on the television or radio, all of which will block out some of the noise of the fireworks. If you need to take your dog out to relieve himself, don’t go too far from the house and keep him on the lead. Provide a litter tray for your cat indoors, to minimise the risk of escaping. However, it’s always a possibility, so we advise that all pets wear a collar and ID tag all evening; it’s also worth considering having them microchipped so you can be reunited if there is an accidental escapee.
If your pet is very distressed by fireworks, it’s usually best NOT to try to cuddle or comfort them, as they will think you are worried too. Stay relaxed, act normally and praise any calm behaviour. It also often helps to occupy your pet with toys, games and food filled toys.

Preparations for firework season should begin as soon as possible, using pheromones, calmers and other remedies.

How do we find out more?

Come and talk to our staff! We’re more than willing to show you how to check your pet’s weight, advise on exercise for your cat, or help you manage your dog’s fears. And in extreme cases, there are always medicines our vets can prescribe to help them relax, whatever’s going on outside!



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