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Seasonal Advice

Navigating Autumn Safely with Your Dog

Discover hazards to watch out for during autumn in this article, along with advice on how to keep your dog out of harm’s way.

Alison Frost

Author: Alison Frost

Edited By: Anna Bain

Navigating Autumn Safely with Your Dog

As autumn arrives, bringing crisp air and golden hues, dog owners and their canine companions gear up for new adventures amidst falling leaves and enjoy cosy evenings by the fireplace. However, beneath the picturesque seasonal scenery lie hidden hazards to your four-legged family member.

Before we get into the autumnal pitfalls, let’s not forget the fun this season can bring to our canine companions— chasing leaves in the crisp breeze, frolicking in puddles, rolling in mud and enjoying the comforting warmth of the indoors. Autumn offers dogs a world of sensory delights.

The vibrant scents and cooler temperatures make the outdoors all the more enjoyable. However, as responsible pet parents, it’s essential to balance letting your dog revel in the season’s beauty and safeguarding them from the dangers. Similarly, during the summer, the heat and sunshine can bring extra challenges for our dogs; read our seasonal guides How To Keep Your Dog Cool and Do Dogs Need Sunscreen to learn more about summer health. Meanwhile, the winter and festive season also presents scenarios that require dog owners to take special care.

Alison Frost, ProDog’s canine nutritionist and holistic care advocate, highlights a few considerations to keep in mind during autumn to ensure a safe and joyful time for your furry friend.


One of the first questions that often arises for dog owners during autumn walks is, “Are conkers poisonous to dogs?” Conkers, also known as horse chestnuts, contain a toxin called aesculin. While conkers have a bitter taste that can deter dogs from eating them, it’s essential not to use them as toys by kicking or throwing them, as this can make them attractive to your dog.

Aesculin can cause serious side effects In larger amounts, and in rare cases, it can be deadly. While toxicity through ingesting conkers is rare due to the quantity needed to cause serious harm, conkers are a real choking hazard. Due to their large and hard composition, they cannot be digested and risk blocking your dog’s stomach and intestines if swallowed.


Similarly, whether acorns are poisonous to dogs is also brought to the forefront during autumn. Acorns, another common seasonal find on walks, can also be hazardous to dogs. These small nuts contain toxic ingredients known as tannins, considered antinutrients. In dogs, tannins can lead to digestive issues, pain, and damage to vital organs. Green acorns, in particular, have high levels of tannins and should be avoided to prevent harm to your fur friend.

Wild mushrooms

While some wild fungi are edible, highly nutritious and even support the immune system [1], distinguishing between poisonous and non-poisonous varieties can be challenging. If your dog consumes an unknown fungus, it could make them unwell, with symptoms ranging from mild stomach upset to more severe issues. If you witness your dog eating some, pick one so that you can check it’s species, or show your vet.

Fallen fruits and berries

As temperatures drop, trees shed their fruits and berries. Some of these contain toxins that can harm your dog. Beware of Deadly Nightshade, Cuckoo Pint, and mistletoe, typically found in woodland areas. Mouldy or fermented fruits are especially harmful to dogs.

Are conkers poisonous to dogs ?

Plants and bulbs

Cultivated plants can also be toxic to dogs, including those grown for autumn aesthetics, like amaryllis and hydrangeas. Autumn crocuses, when dug up and ingested, pose a significant danger. Many flowering bulbs, such as daffodils and tulips, are particularly hazardous. As with conkers, smaller bulbs pose a choking hazard and can cause blockages in the intestines if swallowed, so if your dog has a passion for excavation on walks, keep an eye on what treasures they are unearthing.


As temperatures drop, anti-freeze products become more common. These substances appeal to dogs due to their distinctive scent and sweet taste. Ingesting even a small amount of antifreeze can lead to serious kidney damage or prove fatal. The first signs of toxification appear when your dog seems ‘drunk’; they may stumble and appear disorientated. If you suspect your dog has consumed antifreeze, seek immediate veterinary attention!

Seasonal Canine Illness (SCI)

While the exact cause of SCI remains unknown and is rare, it is more likely to occur in autumn. As a relatively new health condition, the first cases of SCI were identified in the autumn of 2010. While many theories exist about what causes the condition, there are no conclusive facts. Investigations have identified some common themes in reported cases, with woodland walks and harvest mites being amongst the most common denominators.

SCI can become serious if not treated early. If your dog displays signs, consult your vet promptly. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhoea, and tiredness, typically appearing within 72 hours after woodland walks.

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Alabama Rot

This rare but serious condition is believed to be linked to muddy areas. It initially presents as unexplained marks, sores, or ulcers on a dog’s legs or paws. To prevent your dog from falling ill, keep them away from muddy areas or thoroughly wash and dry them after such outings.

Firework season

With firework displays becoming more frequent, some dogs can become frightened and bolt during walks due to loud noises. To reduce stress, it’s advisable to walk your dog during daylight hours and take precautions to create a safe and secure environment at home during firework events. For some dogs, long-lasting chews can distract from external disturbances and encourage more positive emotional states [2]. However, other dogs won’t eat when anxious and soothing music [3], a calming massage or just having their favourite human next to them may be preferable to help them through.

Helping dogs scared of fireworks

When to seek veterinary advice

Keep a watchful eye on your dog during autumn outings, and if you suspect they’ve ingested something toxic or are displaying unusual symptoms, don’t hesitate to contact your veterinarian.
Meanwhile, here are our top recommendations:

  1. Take a photo and, if possible, take a sample of the plant, flower, mushroom or foliage they have ingested.
  2. Keep a close eye on them for 48 hours. Please pay attention to their energy levels, toilet habits, general health and alertness.
  3. Contact the vet immediately if you are concerned.
  4. If your dog has swallowed a conker, bulb, or anything else that could cause a blockage, contact your vet promptly.
  5. If you suspect your dog has consumed antifreeze, seek immediate veterinary attention!

Autumn is a season that offers dogs and their humans memorable experiences. However, knowing the potential hazards is wise for ensuring your dog’s safety and well-being. By taking precautions and staying informed, you can make this autumn a season of happiness and health for your beloved canine companion.

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  1. Guggenheim AG, Wright KM, Zwickey HL. Feb 2014. Immune Modulation From Five Major Mushrooms: Application to Integrative Oncology. Integr Med (Encinitas) 13(1):32-44. PMID: 26770080; PMCID: PMC4684115. 
  2. Flint HE, Atkinson M, Lush J, Hunt ABG, King T. Feb 2023. Long-Lasting Chews Elicit Positive Emotional States in Dogs during Short Periods of Social Isolation. Animals (Basel). 13(4):552. doi: 10.3390/ani13040552.
  3. Lindig AM, McGreevy PD, Crean AJ. Musical Dogs: A Review of the Influence of Auditory Enrichment on Canine Health and Behavior. Animals (Basel). 2020 Jan 13;10(1):127. doi: 10.3390/ani10010127.

Image Credits:
Image credit: Tereza Hošková on Unsplash

Image credit: Todd Mittens on Unsplash

Image credit: Sdf Rahbar on Unsplash


Lorna Dixon

Thankyou Prodog for all the information on Autumn safety for our pets. I will find this very useful.

Team ProDog

You are welcome!

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