It’s October, and it’s officially autumn–the ideal season for dogs and dog-parents to get outside and explore. Autumn is also the start of the holiday season, and Halloween will usher in the first of many treat-fests. Before you know it, you’ll be loosening your belt at the dinner table in anticipation of holiday bounty. October’s National Pet Obesity Awareness Day is a reminder of how important it is to be sure you aren’t also letting your dog’s collar out a notch due to over-indulgence. And did you know that some holiday treats are dangerous for our furriest family members? Let’s discuss that, too!
First of all, let’s get outside
Fall weather is the perfect time for dogs and dog-parents to enjoy the outdoors. Summer’s heat is giving way to cooler breezes. In many regions of North America the gloriously colorful and changing foliage brings a new delight every day.
It’s easier to travel comfortably with your dog in your car if your local weather is growing brisk, and there’s no longer a need to huddle inside with the air-conditioning. If you’ve felt cooped up this summer, now is the time to enjoy the outdoors.
Social-distancing-safe autumn events like orchard visits, corn mazes and nature paths are fun to explore. Of course, be sure to call or check event websites to be sure dogs are welcome. Don’t let this season pass by uncelebrated!
Get health-mindful on Pet Obesity Awareness Day, October 14th
Autumn offers so many great reasons to grab that leash and get some exercise with your dog. You couldn’t ask for a better time to renew your resolve to get fit. Even dogs benefit from a regular exercise schedule. A 2018 survey by the Association of Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) estimated that 60% of cats and 56% of dogs in the United States are overweight or obese. Our pet’s fitness needs to be on our radar, just like our own.
How can you tell if your dog or cat is a bit too pudgy? APOP has body condition score charts to help, and offers these tips:
- When you run your hand along your dog’s side, you should be able to feel and count the ribs.
- Looking down from above, your dog should have an indentation near the midsection—a healthy hourglass figure.
- Looking at your dog from the side, you should see an upward tuck at the tummy. If your pup’s stomach is hanging low, this is a sign of dangerous abdominal fat.
Dogs should get at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day—the perfect amount of time for a relaxing autumn stroll, a game of chase, or a visit to the dog park to play ball. If you aren’t sure your dog is getting enough exercise, there are even pet activity monitors that track activity just as fitness devices do for humans!
How many calories should your dog eat each day? Your veterinarian is the expert to consult. Your vet will want to see your dog’s body condition at your next wellness visit, and will ask how much exercise your dog is currently getting. With a few calculations, your vet should be able to let you know how many actual calories (not cups!) your dog needs. Then you can meet that calorie goal, no matter what food you are feeding. Don’t forget to figure in treats!
Not all holiday goodies for humans are safe for dogs
With the arrival of autumn, you’ll be tempted by a smorgasbord of treats, from Halloween candy to pumpkin-spice-everything. Trick-or-treat bags and colorful candy bowls are a staple of the fall and winter holidays, but the contents can be downright dangerous to pets.
Chocolate contains a chemical called theobromine, as well as caffeine. Both are toxic to dogs and cats. With the revelation that dark chocolate may help (human) heart health, more people are enjoying this treat daily. If you are one of them, be careful to store your chocolate securely. If you avoid sugar for health reasons, you might be tempted to fill your candy bowl or purse with sugar-free candies or gum. These can contain the sugar-substitute xylitol, which can cause low blood sugar, liver failure and even death in pets.
Even if your pet isn’t normally a lover of sweets, the rustle of plastic bags and candy wrappers can kick in your pet’s compulsion to chew just for fun, no matter the taste. So tuck your kid’s bag of treats up in a closed cupboard, especially if your pup is an accomplished counter-surfer. If you do keep a stash of candy or gum in your purse, keep your bag on a hook or shelf where your pets can’t explore the contents.
If you find your canine companion with evidence of candy theft, call your veterinarian or the Poison Control Hotline right away for guidance. They’ll want to know exactly what your pup could have eaten, and an estimate of how much. Don’t wait to see if your dog shows signs of sickness. Signs of poisoning may not show up for 6-12 hours, and your pet may need medical attention earlier. PetMD has a chocolate toxicity chart that can help you estimate what type and how much chocolate is dangerous based on your dog’s weight.
As you look ahead to holiday turkey dinners, resist sharing too much of that delicious bounty with your dog, no matter how many begging looks you receive. While your dog can enjoy a little simple roasted turkey, avoid fat, stuffing, and other side dishes that can contain spices and butter that cause digestive upset. Onions and garlic are toxic to dogs, and pumpkin pie filling can contain xylitol, just like candy. Keep cooked bones away–they splinter dangerously when chewed. Stick to plain meat or broth–your dog won’t miss all the other trimmings you are enjoying.
Your pup CAN enjoy the delicious flavors of autumn, safely
Being safe about treats doesn’t mean your dog has to miss out on extra-special goodies this October. Our Oatmeal & Pumpkin Dog Treats and Organic Oatmeal & Pumpkins Treats have comfort-food flavors of fall and are made from the same wholesome ingredients you’d feed the humans in your family. They are wheat and corn free, and even the most finicky pups love them. Each Oatmeal & Pumpkin treat is 20 calories, so you can figure them accurately into your dog’s daily calorie count!
If you are trying to keep those extra pounds off your pup, our soft-baked treats make great training rewards or the perfect bring-along snack on a long outdoor romp. They are just the right size, and they easily break apart if you’d like an even smaller treat.
So head outside, pet parents! It’s time for both you and your dog to experience the sights and flavors of fall. You don’t want October to fly by without enjoying these glorious but fleeting autumn days.