Autumn is a lovely time for dog walks, as the weather cools down and the leaves start to turn, but take care not to come back with more than you bargained for.
Ticks continue to be a problem in some areas at this time of year (especially if you cross farmland) so check your dog after every walk and consider using a preventative treatment. September is also the time for smaller parasites called harvest mites. These are picked up on grassland and cause intense itching, usually of the feet and ears. If you look closely, you can see clusters of the bright orange mites. Few parasite treatments are effective against harvest mites, other than Fipronil spray (available on prescription).
Harvest mites may also be implicated in Seasonal Canine Illness (SCI). The cause of SCI remains unknown, but most of the studied cases also had harvest mites. Dogs with SCI develop vomiting and diarrhoea within 72 hours of walking in woodland. Dogs usually recover with fluid therapy, but may die of kidney failure if they go untreated. Cases have been seen between August and November, and clusters of cases have occurred in Nottinghamshire (Sherwood Forest and Clumber Park), Lincolnshire, Norfolk (Thetford Forest and Sandringham), Suffolk (Rendlesham Forest), and the New Forest, over recent years.
If your dog has a tendency to scavenge, take extra care on autumn walks; overeating windfall fruit can cause vomiting and diarrhoea, and eating acorns can cause digestive pain and gut obstructions. Several cases of poisoning by fungi have been reported to the Veterinary Poisons Service. Unfortunately, dogs may die after eating toxic fungi, even with intensive veterinary care.
As days get shorter you may be reducing the length of your dog’s walks; remember to reduce the amount you feed to avoid winter weight gain, and consider games that you can play on walks and at home to give your dog extra mental stimulation.