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Autumn Hazards

We must bear in mind the hazards that can be around at this time of year

As the leaves on the trees start to change colour and we head out and about with our pets to see the beauty of nature, we must bear in mind the hazards that can be around at this time of year.

Alabama Rot

Alabama Rot is another name for Cutaneous and Renal Glomerular Vasculopathy (CRGV). It causes damage to the blood vessels in the skin and kidneys resulting in skin ulceration and kidney failure. The cause is currently unknown but there is a lot of research going on to try and find more information about the disease.

​It is important to remember Alabama Rot is currently a rare disease however it is important to be vigilant. To date, 176 cases have been confirmed in the UK since November 2012 (51 in 2018, but only 2 so far in 2019)

​ Clinical Signs:

  • Unexplained redness, swelling or sores on the skin especially around the paws and legs
  • Lethargy, vomiting, pyrexia, diarrhoea, lameness, neurological signs, increased drinking and urination

The majority of redness, swellings and sores will be caused by injuries, bites, stings, lameness or cuts so do not panic if you see a cut on your dog’s leg. Similarly, there are many causes for increased drinking and urination but if you notice any of these signs it is recommended that your dog is seen by a Vet for a check over.

​Currently there is no cure for the disease and treatment is symptomatic.  Sadly, the majority of cases are fatal if they go on to develop renal failure. Treatment for renal failure is intensive and not always successful.  However if skin changes alone are caused by CRGV many dogs will not go on to develop kidney failure and recover fully.

​As the cause of it is unknown there is currently no vaccine, medication or treatment that can prevent Alabama Rot. It is advised to rinse off your dog’s legs and paws after a walk especially if it is wet and muddy outside. We do not know if this will prevent the disease or if this is necessary at this stage.

​The cases reported to date have been spread across different counties with the dogs being walked on different terrains. Most cases seem to occur between November and April suggesting there may be an environmental/seasonal cause however this has not been proven so far.


As Autumn arrives, conkers appear on Horse Chesnut trees and whilst swallowing a conker whole is of obvious concern (blockage), it may surprise you that even a ‘chewed up’ conker may result in fatality. 

Horse chestnuts are common and can often be seen in parks, fields and woodland.  They contain Aesculin which can be found in the bark, leaves and flowers of the tree.  The seed(conker) contain high levels of starch and Aesculin which causes toxicity in dogs.  Clinical signs often occur 1-6 hours following ingestion but may take longer and include vomiting, diarrhoea, salivation, abdominal tenderness, excessive drinking and neurological signs, such as muscle tremors.  It is important that you contact a Vet as soon as possible if you think your dog may have eaten a conker.

Similarly to conkers, mushrooms can also cause toxicity to dogs and symptoms and prognosis varies greatly depending on the type of mushroom eaten. 

Mushrooms are categorised depending on the clinical signs they produce and range from gastrointestinal upset to neurological signs to kidney and liver destruction.  Symptoms and treatment will depend on the type eaten so if you are suspicious your dog has eaten mushrooms, contact your vet and where possible take a sample of the mushroom with you.

Harvest Mites (Trombicula autumnalis)

Harvest mites are microscopic members of the spider family, arachnids and are particularly common in late summer/autumn time affecting dogs, cats and even small furries.  They are visible to the naked eye and look like small orange dots on the skin.  Commonly affected areas include ears, face and the underside of the body where the hair is thinner (e.g. armpits, tummy, vulva and scrotum).

​Initially, the animal may not be bothered but as numbers of mites grow the irritation becomes worse and the animal will usually scratch and/or rub at the affected area of the body causing self trauma.  Localised, small red bumps and inflammation may appear alongside this.  Diagnosis is often straight forward by examination of a sample under a microscope, either by plucking the hair or scraping the skin.

​Affected animals can be treated with a spot-on product to kill the mites, but other medication (such as ear cleaner, antimicrobial scrub, steroids) may be required to help relieve irritation and calm the affected area.

Bonfire Night/Fireworks

We’ve all heard the warning to check our bonfires for hedgehogs before lighting them, but what about our pets over the firework and bonfire season.  Bonfires at homes are becoming less common but if you’re planning to have one, the best advice is to keep pets away.

​Even before lighting a bonfire it may prove hazardous to our pets, dogs may eat sticks and other items and cats may get trapped or injured whilst investigating.

​Understandably, many animals have firework phobia and therefore, it’s always advisable to keep pets indoors where possible – even a pet that hasn’t shown signs of stress previously may be spooked by a loud bang and bolt.  Please see our article on how to keep pets safe

​Also, don’t forget your small furries during this time.  Where possible, bring pets indoors.  If this cannot be done, it’s advisable to cover cages and hutches to muffle noises and hide flashes of light which may frighten them and provide extra bedding and boxes to hide in.


Halloween is a time of year enjoyed by children and families but not necessarily by our pets.  Sweets and chocolate can be poisonous to dogs and cats.  Chocolate contains theobromine, a chemical which is similar to caffeine and can cause toxicity.  The amount of theobromine in chocolate varies depending on the quality and type of chocolate.  Even just a small amount of dark chocolate (which has a high concentration of theobromine) can cause side effects, such as agitation, hyperexcitability, tremors, convulsions, heart disturbances and rarely death.  Although, the toxic level for a cat is lower than that of a dog it is usually the latter who are culprits of chocolate ingestion.  Simply, cats are less likely to eat it as they cannot taste sweetness. 

​Sweets (and other food items, such as low sugar peanut butter) may contain an artificial sweeter called ‘Xylitol’.  Xylitol can cause hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) and other serious problems in dogs, i.e. liver failure.  Whilst it is unknown what the impact of ingesting Xylitol has on cats, it is advisable to keep them away.

Decorations may also prove harmful to our pets.  The consequences of Ingestion will vary depending on what has been eaten but could result in anything from mild gastrointestinal signs to surgical removal.  Dogs are not the only one’s who enjoy playing with and eating decorations, we have removed pipe cleaners from a cat’s stomach in the past!  Pumpkins should be discarded before they turn mouldy and kept out of pet’s reach if containing candles.

​It may be advisable to keep pets shut away if you have ‘trick or treaters’ coming to your house.  If an animal gets spooked an open door may allow the opportunity to escape.  It’s also important to ensure that your pet’s microchip details are up-to-date and they are wearing a collar with contact details on.

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