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5 Ways to Keep Your Dog Healthy During the Fall Months

Fall brings its own dangers -- and pleasures! -- for dogs. Dr. Louise Murray covers foods, exercise, and what to do if a visiting relative keeps trying to treat your dog.

Dr. Louise Murray  |  Oct 22nd 2015


Summer has left us for another year, and while we will miss visits to the beach and lazy afternoons in the shade of our favorite tree, fall is a spectacular season for dogs and the people who love them.

Dr. Louise Murray and her cat, Dov.

Dr. Louise Murray and her cat, Dov.

There is so much to love about fall with your dog, whether you enjoy weekend hikes to admire the colors or snuggling up on a cozy sofa together — or both! Here are my tips to make the most of this season with your pet:

1. Stay active

Don’t let fall’s cooler temperature turn you and your buddy into couch potatoes. This is a great time to ensure your dog is getting plenty of regular exercise — just check with your vet regarding what kinds of activities are appropriate for your dog’s age and health. Whether it’s a brisk jog, a game of Frisbee at the park, or an easy stroll with an older pet, be sure to keep your dog active. Not only will this help ward off obesity — an all-too-common issue plaguing our pets — but it’s great bonding time for both of you.

2. Keep your dog protected

Before heading out for some outdoor autumn fun, be sure your dog is up to date on vaccinations. Some infectious diseases, such as leptospirosis, which causes liver and kidney damage and can be transmitted from wild animals to your dog via a contaminated puddle, are even more prevalent in the fall in some areas.

And don’t skip your flea, tick, and heartworm protection – these parasites are still active in the fall and are more than an annoyance. Fleas can cause severe skin conditions and anemia, and ticks transmit very serious infectious diseases. Talk to your vet about the most appropriate and effective preventives for your dog.

3. Avoid outdoor hazards

As you enjoy the great outdoors, keep an eye on what your dog is sampling. While acorns might be a good source of winter nutrition for squirrels, they do not make a great snack for dogs, as they can cause GI upset. If your pooch finds them tempting to crunch on, do your best to discourage this.

Acorns, and chestnuts by Shutterstock.

Acorns and chestnuts by Shutterstock.

4. Incorporate fall foods into your dog’s diet

When we find ourselves craving cozy comfort foods, we might wonder if any fall favorites are healthy for Fido as well. Absolutely! While some “people foods” are not safe for pets — for instance, be sure to avoid grapes, raisins, chocolate, and onions for your canine companions — many of the fall foods we often incorporate into our own diets are nutritious for pets as well. Some seasonally apt, nutritious ingredients you can look for in pet foods include:

Lentils: Ever want to curl up on a chilly fall day with a warm bowl of hearty lentil soup? These tiny legumes are packed with protein, fiber, iron, and vitamins, and they can be a great natural protein source for pet foods.

Pumpkins: Heading out to the pumpkin patch to choose the perfect gourd to brighten your front porch? Or sneaking into the kitchen to savor another slice of tasty pumpkin pie? Pumpkin is not just for decorating and dessert; it is loaded with natural fiber and moisture, while low in calories. The fiber in pumpkin may be helpful in keeping your pet’s digestive tract in good working order. Opt for plain pumpkin, though, not pie filling.

Puppy with pumpkin by Shutterstock.

Puppy with pumpkin by Shutterstock.

Turkey: Turkey, of course, is often featured in fall holiday meals. With Thanksgiving around the corner, families can include furry members in this tradition while still ensuring their diet is balanced and pet-appropriate by offering pet foods incorporating the meat, which is as an excellent source of lean protein. This is a safe and healthy way for your dog to enjoy turkey. Never allow anyone to give your dog leftover turkey bones, however, since these can lodge in or pierce the digestive tract. Bones in general are not recommended — those that can be chewed or swallowed can cause stomach or intestinal obstruction, while those too large and hard to ingest can break your dog’s teeth.

Green beans: Speaking of Thanksgiving, one often-featured side dish that deserves a mention is a steaming platter of that old standby our moms insisted we finish up: green beans. Well, our moms were right. Green beans are high in antioxidants and fiber, among other benefits.

5. Avoid over-treating

Dog food by Shutterstock.

Dog food by Shutterstock.

When guests are in and out of our homes, tempting treats of every description surround us, and we ourselves tend to overindulge. It’s best to show restraint as far as our canine family members are concerned. Discourage guests from “treating” your dog, which can lead to serious issues, including pancreatitis and GI upset due to over-rich foods her tummy is not unaccustomed to. If you want your dog to share in the kinds of foods the rest of the family is enjoying, look for them in high-quality, complete, and balanced pet foods.

Read more about fall fun and safety with your dog:

About the author: Dr. Louise Murray is a veterinarian with Wellness TruFood and the author of Vet Confidential, an insider’s guide to protecting your pet’s health. She’s a vet on a mission to tell pet parents the truth. She has appeared on CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX and Animal Planet, and has been a contributing expert to an array of newspapers and magazines. Louise lives in Rye, New York, with her husband, son, and two rescue cats, Dov and Siena.