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Can Dogs Safely Jump in Piles of Leaves? Vet Approved Facts & Safety Tips

Written by: Dogster Team

Last Updated on May 28, 2024 by Dogster Team

dog-playing-in-the-autumn

Can Dogs Safely Jump in Piles of Leaves? Vet Approved Facts & Safety Tips

VET APPROVED

Dr. Amanda Charles Photo

REVIEWED & FACT-CHECKED BY

Dr. Amanda Charles

BVSc MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

Letting your dog jump in piles of leaves seems harmless. And some dogs really enjoy it. But, while that pile of brown leaves might seem like a perfectly safe, cushioned landing, there are certain perils that owners need to be aware of. The leaves themselves can be toxic to your dog and they can harbor fleas, ticks, and other parasites that are detrimental to your pup’s health, although this is less likely in fresh piles of leaves.

There is also the threat of physical injury if you don’t know what is under the pile of leaves. Below, we look at the main threats jumping into piles of leaves poses to your dog and what you can do to mitigate those dangers.

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The 5 Dangers of Dogs Jumping into a Pile of Leaves

1. Physical Dangers

Unless you’ve diligently combed through the pile of leaves before your dog leaps in, you can’t be sure what’s underneath. There could be sharp or hard objects under the top layer. Tree stumps, rakes, and even broken glass could be hiding underneath and if your dog jumps in any of these, it can lead to serious injury.

Obviously, if you’ve created the pile of leaves, you should have a better idea of what’s underneath, and if you’re piling the leaves up, as well as making sure they’re fresh and non-toxic leaves, make sure you remove the rake and get rid of any potentially harmful objects that might be underneath. You should also try and make sure the ground underneath is relatively level because an uneven landing could be enough to cause a sprain or other injury.

male Olde English Bulldogge dog standing at the park
Image Credit: Wirestock Creators, Shutterstock

2. Toxic Leaves

Some leaves are toxic to dogs. Oak and horse chestnut tree leaves are among some of the potentially dangerous leaves that can cause sickness if ingested.

Leaf piles also typically harbor other parts of plants and trees. You may find poisonous berries, conkers or acorns, and it only takes a second for a dog to consume one. No matter how diligently you watch your pup, you may not notice what goes on in the middle of a leaf pile.


3. Mold

Leaf piles are damp and dark, which makes them the ideal breeding ground for mold. Molds will be more prevalent in older piles of leaves and reproduce by means of microscopic spores which are released into the environment. Mold can cause gastrointestinal upset if ingested, respiratory signs if inhaled and it can also be a trigger for allergies.

Signs of a mold allergy typically include skin itchiness which can lead to severe itching. Other symptoms include red and streaming eyes.  Unfortunately you can’t always tell by looking at a pile of leaves whether it contains mold, but the best approach is to wash your dog to get rid of any mold spores to reduce the risk of bad reactions

dog scratching its body
Image Credit: ElenaYakimova, Shutterstock

4. Fleas, Ticks, and Other Parasites

We commonly think of fleas as living on cats, dogs, and wild animals like hedgehogs and foxes. But flea eggs, larva and pupa can live in damp shady, hidden areas like leaf piles. Similarly, they can also harbor ticks and other parasites that you don’t want your dog contracting.

Fleas and ticks are tiny, and it is very difficult to spot them, so looking at the pile of leaves before you let your dog in won’t guarantee avoidance.


5. Spiders, Snakes, and Other Threats

Larger living threats can also exist in leaf piles and range from spiders to snakes. Most snakes like solitude and they stay hidden under rocks or in crevices and other gaps. Some will hide in piles of leaves. They are also well camouflaged against fallen leaves. Similarly, spiders like Black Widows and Brown Recluses will hide in leaf piles and you may not see them even after they’ve bitten. Black Widows have enough venom to kill small dogs.

If you think your dog has been bitten by a spider or snake, seek veterinary help as soon as possible. Time is of the essence. If you see the offending creature, be prepared to describe it to the vet because this will help ensure the proper anti-venom is given. Also, be aware of the species of snakes and spiders that reside in your area and know what to look for to help lessen the risk of coming into contact with them.

boiga-cynodon-snake-in-autumn
Image Credit: Alen thien, Shutterstock

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What to Do If Your Dog Does Jumps in Leaves

If you let your dog off-leash, the allure of leaping in a large pile of leaves might be too much for your dog to take and it can be difficult to stop them. If your dog does take the plunge, the first thing is to get them out. Make sure they don’t show any signs of physical injury and ensure they don’t eat any of the leaves or vegetation in the pile.

Be careful when removing the dog that you don’t disturb any potentially dangerous snakes or spiders and, when you get your dog home, give them a bath.

Watch for signs of allergic reactions, as well as signs like vomiting and diarrhea, and if your dog does show any of these signs, seek veterinary attention as soon as possible.

Why Do Dogs Like Jumping in Leaves?

There are several reasons why some dogs like jumping in leaves. First, it is a fun activity. Many of us enjoyed jumping in leaves when we were young children, and it’s the same for dogs. They like the feeling, the sound, and the joy of leaping in.

It may also be a scenting activity. If the leaves have a strong smell, whether it is of the trees themselves or of any wild animals that might have been in that pile of leaves, your dog may want to envelop itself in the smell or transmit its own smell onto the leaf pile. If you see your pup rolling around and rubbing scent glands especially found around the neck, into the leaves, this is likely what is happening.

If you’ve seen your dog jump in leaves in the past and laughed or encouraged it, your dog may be repeating the action in the hope of enjoying the same reaction, making it a learned activity. And if you have multiple dogs, one may have picked it up from another.

man-and-his-dog-playing-in-the-park
Image Credit: William Perugini, Shutterstock

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Conclusion

Some dogs love to run and jump in piles of leaves. However, while it can be safe for dogs to jump in piles of fresh leaves, as long as you know what leaves they are, there are some potential hazards.

As well as physical hazards like sharp objects that might be hiding underneath, there are also the threats of fleas, ticks, spiders, and snakes, while some of the leaves and foliage might be toxic. Mold is also commonly found in piles of old and decaying leaves.

If your dog has been playing in leaves, give them a good wash and look for signs of allergic reactions and reactions to toxic substances. And seek veterinary assistance if you do see any possible problems.


Featured Image Credit: Sundays Photography, Shutterstock

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