The slightly cooler fall months in Florida, from mid-September to mid-December, are a relief from the relentless heat of the summer.
The crush of the tourists has moved on, and the majority of the snowbirds haven’t arrived just yet. Some of the biggest fall festivals in the country occur in Florida (non-COVID times of course), and traveling fairs and carnivals are drawn to the relative warmth of the Sunshine State. It is also a popular time to get out and enjoy nature especially as the weather gets drier towards the end of the season.
No season is without its pitfalls, however, and the autumn season in Florida is no exception. Toxins abound this time of year, both natural and man-made, and the weather occasionally gets downright wicked. Exposure to any type of mold or mildew—more common this time of year—can lead to allergic reactions for some animals, and Halloween comes with its own special challenges.
Fortunately, it’s easy to avoid the most negative aspects of fall in Florida with a little extra attention and preparation.
There are several varieties of fungi that proliferate during the fall season in Florida, including mildew, molds, and mushrooms. The mushrooms that you buy at the store are a great source of vitamins and minerals for your precious pooch, but wild mushrooms that your dog sniffs out may not be so benign.
While the majority of mushrooms that your dog forages from the forest floor—or your backyard—are harmless, a few in Brevard County, such as Jack-o-Lantern mushrooms and Death Cap mushrooms, can be fatal if ingested. Make sure that you keep an eye on your dog at all times when you are outdoors, and try to eliminate mushrooms from any open area where your canine companion is allowed to roam freely.
Molds and mildews flourish throughout the late summer and early fall, and they thrive in wet piles of decaying matter like grass clippings and leaf litter. The proliferation of these tiny fungal invaders can lead to a number of uncomfortable developments for your canine companion.
Many dogs experience dry, itchy skin and hair loss from allergic reactions related to molds and mildew, especially if the exposure to the allergen is prolonged. Dogs are more sensitive to molds and mildews than humans and some varieties may also trigger more concerning symptoms, such as bloody nasal discharge, gastrointestinal distress, lethargy, and loss of appetite.
Several types of algae grow in the oceans and lakes that are found here in our great state of Florida. Most of them are fairly harmless, but a few of them can be extremely detrimental to the health of you or your companion animal when they bloom, usually in the late summer and early fall.
Most algal blooms resemble foam, scum, mats of vegetation, or even paint floating on the surface, but some bloom under the surface, lending its hue to the water it rests in. Both Red Tide and Blue-Green algal blooms can be extremely dangerous to either ourselves or to our pets and are not uncommon in Florida.
Red Tide is more common along the coastline, especially in the gulf area. Named for its characteristic rusty red color, it produces powerful toxins that can cause neurological effects in our pets such as staggering, inability to stand, excessive drooling, vomiting, and tremors.
Deadly Blue-Green algal blooms are more often seen in freshwater, although they can occur in saltwater as well, and may be triggered by high amounts of phosphorous and nitrogen in the water. The toxins released into the water can induce organ failures within a short period of time.
Dogs affected by Blue-Green algae will exhibit symptoms that may include vomiting and diarrhea, excessive drooling, yellowing of the eyes, pale gums, confusion, collapse, breathing difficulties, or seizures. If your dog is exhibiting any of the symptoms listed above after frolicking in natural bodies of water, contact your veterinarian right away.
The thunderstorms begin to slow down somewhat by mid-September, but hurricane season in Florida extends out to November 30th. The peak of hurricane season hits in September, just as summer gives way to fall. Autumn is a good time to check your emergency kits and make sure that they are complete and up-to-date. It is crucial that your emergency kit has enough food, water, and medication for both the human members of your family and the furred, feathered, or scaled family members in your care.
Staying informed about the weather conditions can help to give you as much time to prepare as possible in the event of an evacuation, and making sure that that your pet’s ID tags and microchip information is current will help ensure that your canine or feline family member makes it home if they get separated from you.
While nature can be harsh all on her own, many of the worst dangers facing our canine companions in the fall are man-made dangers. Rodents tend to invade homes more in the fall, tempted by the climate control and abundant stores of food. To keep them out of our abundant stores of food, people often resort to using rodenticides, which can be extremely dangerous to our pets as well.
In our homes, we can either keep poisonous pest control products far out of our pets’ reach or eliminate their use altogether. When out walking your dog, remember to keep an eye on them to ensure they aren’t indiscriminately eating something that may be dangerous.
Many people check the fluids in their cars and top off the antifreeze this time of year as well. Antifreeze, made with ethylene glycol, has both a sweet smell and flavor, making especially it tempting for our feline and canine companions. Unfortunately, this is a lethal liquid—just a few tablespoons is enough to severely damage the kidneys of a medium-sized dog, often leading to death within just a few days. Make sure that you securely store antifreeze after you are done using it.
Humans also really like their celebrations, and there is a big one during the fall season. Halloween is a lot of fun, with kids dressed up and running from door to door, arms outstretched to receive a bounty of goodies in their bags. It is not always fun for our pets.
While some four-legged family members may take the chaos and weird costume completely in stride, many are confused and frightened by the changes. Make sure that your pet has a safe place to hide out from all of the excitement, and keep the chocolate well out of reach!
Keeping Your Pets Safe and Healthy During Our Florida Fall Months
Florida’s fall months are full of adventure and surprise both for people and for their pets. While autumn provides much-needed relief from the hot summers, it also has a few unique challenges of its own. Be sure to be aware of your surroundings and keep an eye on what your animal companion is ingesting.
Being conscious of your pet’s behavior and proactive about properly storing products that could be toxic will help you to easily navigate this toxic time of year.
Melanie is the owner and founder of Brevard’s premier trusted in-home pet care company. With a Sociology & Criminal Justice degree from the University of Tennessee, in 2016 she took her corporate security background and combined it with her lifelong passion for animals – that’s how Space Coast Pet Services was born! She is certified in Pet First Aid & CPR, bonded, insured, and proudly completed a full background check successfully. She is committed to ongoing training and education for herself and her team. To learn more, click here.
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