pet autumn safety advice

After such a long hot summer, it’s hard to imagine that soon we’ll be back to darker nights with cold, damp days. Some diseases are seasonal and can be more of a threat at this time of year. By learning about them, we can keep our pets safer - read on to find out more.

Trombicula Autumnalis or Harvest Mites

These tiny mites are found in long grass and dense foliage from late summer through to the autumn. They climb up and swarm onto passing mammals, including dogs, cats and rabbits. Harvest Mites feed for two or three days on thin areas of skin, such as the ear flap and between the toes, although they can be found anywhere on the body. As they are bright orange in colour, they can look like orange dust on the animals’ coat, and can be seen by the naked eye as tiny dots. They cause intense skin irritation and a considerable amount of discomfort.

If you see these mites on your pet, take your pet to the vet as you will need a spray to get rid of them. Your vet will also be able to give your pet some medication to help with the itching if it is very bad. If your rabbit gets infested, get advice from your vet as the anti-parasitic sprays commonly used on dogs and cats can be harmful to rabbits.

How to avoid getting harvest mites:

  • Find out if there are any “hot spots” in your area. Your vet may have this information, as may other dog walkers.
  • As the mites are active when it’s warmer, usually in the middle of the day, walk your dog early in the morning or late at night. Keep cats in during the day if you are near an affected area.
  • Walk your dog on the pavement instead. Dogs love sniffing as much as charging through undergrowth - it may just take longer to tire them out!

Seasonal Canine Illness (SCI)

SCI is an illness which may be related to harvest mite infestation, although at this stage the true cause has yet to be identified. The other theory (which has now been discounted) was an allergy to types of woodland fungus.  SCI was first reported in 2010, and seems to be confined to autumn. Affected dogs always seem to have been in woodland areas within three days before developing the symptoms. It’s a rare but very serious condition and can be fatal if not caught early.

Symptoms of SCI:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Lethargy and depression
  • Abdominal pain
  • Running a fever
  • Muscle tremors.

This could be a list of symptoms for many different gastrointestinal upsets, so it is best to phone your veterinary practice for advice if you are worried. The vomiting and diarrhoea leads to life threatening dehydration. The good news is that caught early with intensive supportive veterinary treatment, most dogs recover within 10 days.

Update on Alabama Rot

You have probably read about this nasty disease in the press over the last few years. Like SCI, the cause is still unknown, but as case numbers go up in the cold, wet months; it is something dog owners need to know about this autumn.

What is known:

  • The scientific name is Cutaneous and renal glomerular vasculopathy. (This means it affects the little blood vessels in the skin and in the kidney).
  • Sadly, dogs which are affected do not usually recover.
  • Symptoms are: skin lesions usually on the feet and legs which can look like sores or bites, leading on to general illness, vomiting, lethargy, loss of appetite and thirst as a result of the kidney failure.
  • Recently there has been a small research breakthrough and the discovery that a bacterium called Aeromonas hydrophila, may be involved. It is early days however, so watch this space!
  • A treatment given at the Royal Veterinary College has recently been successful. A couple of patients underwent plasma exchange therapy and made a full recovery.

These diseases sound scary but they are rare and many millions of dog walks take place in the countryside every year without any problem. So be aware but enjoy your walks!

Other autumn snippets

  • Remember to collect and use your monthly flea treatment. Fleas on dogs and cats are a real hazard over winter as they can survive and breed in our centrally heated homes. After a long hot summer, we could be in for an autumn epidemic! Don’t forget, flea treatment is included when you are a member of the Healthy Pet Club.
  • Slugs are abundant in the damp and wet. They can carry the deadly disease of Lungworm. Lungworm (Angiostrongylus vasorum) in dogs can ONLY be prevented by using the worm treatment you get from your vet. Worm treatment is just one of the great benefits included when you’re a Healthy Pet Club member. For further information on Lungworm >
  • Antifreeze can poison cats – Autumn is traditionally a time when we use antifreeze to service our cars for the winter. These days fortunately most of this work is done in garages rather than at home but Ethylene Glycol can still be fatal. Be aware and clear up any spills and leaks to make sure no cat will lick it up. It only takes a teaspoon to kill a cat. For further advice on antifreeze poisoning > 
  • Don’t forget our bunnies and guinea pigs this autumn. Make sure small furries stay warm and dry in an area where they can run, jump and exhibit all their normal behaviours. If outdoors, they need to be able to get inside out of the cold and damp but still have access to an exercise area. Ask your veterinary practice for information on how to house a happy hopper!