While days are clear and crisp there are also dangers to be aware of that can hurt our pals during our pre-winter walks.
Toxins to watch out for on walks
Not only can conkers be dangerous as they can block your dog’s airways if eaten, they also contain a chemical called Aesculin which can cause internal damage if ingested. Acorns are also toxic to dogs as they contain tannic acid, which can cause diarrhoea and stomach upset. In more severe cases, acorns can even cause internal damage and kidney disease. Certain fungi are also toxic to dogs if ingested.
Signs of anxiety in your dog are not always obvious. They can start with shaking when not wet, yawning when not tired, and lip licking. According to the PDSA,
(www.pdsa.org.uk), these calming actions can escalate quickly to:
- Trembling and shaking
- Clinging to owners
- Excessive barking
- Cowering and hiding behind furniture
- Trying to run away
- Going to the toilet in the house
- Pacing and panting
- Refusing to eat
- Destructive behaviour (chewing furniture etc.)
Don’t forget to make sure your pet’s ID tag and microchip is up to date, as walking with a higher risk of fireworks increases the risk of your dog bolting in fright. All dogs out in a public place must wear an ID tag by law in the UK (the Control of Dogs Order 1992).
Be mindful of times and surroundings
Due to fireworks being more commonly set off in residential areas, the risk of back garden displays local to you is now even greater. Try to walk your dog at times when there is a lower chance of fireworks being set off, that is, before dusk. Supervise your dog when in the garden, do your best to calm him if any loud bangs occur and bring him in as soon as possible.
Safe places at home
Consider creating a safe place for your Westie to have quiet time. This will help him/her to remain calm and decompress from any anxiety. Fresh water should always be available and perhaps place his favourite toy in there too. Ideal areas are open crates with a blanket over the top, a blanket over a chair, or just the corner of a room with their bed. Close blinds and curtains if necessary and play calming music.
Thunder shirts are available from many reputable retailers, but a homemade wrap using a sheet or scarf could help your dog feel at ease during more stressful times. Remove the wrap if the dog doesn’t like it.
Tried and tested on my own Westie, an old pair of men’s socks with the heel cut out, fits perfectly over your dog’s ears to help muffle the sounds. Remove the sock if the dog doesn’t like it.
Consider using calming room sprays or plug ins. Adaptil or similar brands mimic calming pheromones for dogs and last one month. They provide a strong signal of comfort and security to dogs of all ages, mimicking how mother dogs communicate with their puppies using natural “comforting messages”. The plug ins should be started two weeks before the stressful period and can be purchased from main online retailers for around £20.
After you’ve carved your pumpkin, use the flesh and seeds to treat your dog. A rich source of fiber and prebiotics. If your dog has become anxious and needs some tummy settlers, some fresh or steamed pumpkin can help to firm up soft poop. Just add a teaspoon to your dog’s food. Pumpkin seeds are also a perfect treat for training and are filled full of magnesium.
Collect some dry leaves when on walks and use them at home to create a ‘sniffari’ with their favourite treats thrown in. Dogs sniffing for five minutes use the same amount of energy as a 30-minute walk, so consider whether your dog would benefit more from staying home that day and playing games. Using their noses and brains, helps keep them calm and creates a positive environment. Lickimats are also a good way of feeding and treating your dog, as licking is also a calming action for a dog.
Clare Palmer is the Founder of ‘Miss Pixies Pets’ a dog walking and pet care business in West Sussex. Clare is also the owner of the late Pixie.