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The Basics of First Aid for Dogs: Fall Edition


Protecting your pet is a year-round job.

Because pet health and wellness is at the core of everything we do at Waggle Mail, we’re excited to continue our First Aid for Dogs Basics (FAB) series. (If you haven’t already, check out our summertime pet first aid post. Sunscreen isn’t only for summer.)

Each season, we bring you the first aid basics for dogs, helping you take the very best care of your very best friend no matter what Mother Nature throws at you.

From yard maintenance to dry skin, we’ve packed this pet first aid post with helpful tips and reminders so you and your dog enjoy a safe, FAB fall.

Preparing for winter

As the weather cools and the leaves begin to fall, we start preparations for the winter ahead. Between what’s in our vehicles and what’s on our lawn, there are ample opportunities for our dogs to get up to—and into—no good. Here’s how you can protect your pet:

Dogs and Antifreeze:

Treat antifreeze as you would any other dangerous liquid, keeping it safely out of your dog’s reach to prevent ingestion and poisoning. Although there is no “safe” antifreeze when it comes to dogs, eythlene glycol is the most dangerous because dogs are particularly drawn to its suspected sweet taste. Any spills should be cleaned up immediately.

If your dog happens to ingest antifreeze, your response will depend on how long it’s been since the incident. If it’s been less than an hour, you should induce vomiting as quickly as you can.

We stock 3% hydrogen peroxide in our Waggle Mail pet first aid kits for precisely this reason, and your vet can give you the dose. If more than an hour has passed or your dog has ingested a significant amount of antifreeze, it’s best to get in the car and pay a visit to your vet.

Dogs and Rodenticides:

Dropping temperatures mean that mice, rats, and other pesky rodents tend to seek shelter in places like our garages and homes. Rodenticides (mouse poison or bait) are often used to keep these unwelcome squatters out, but did you know they’re extremely dangerous for dogs?

Here are a few pet-safe ways to keep your home rodent-free:

  • Live traps (a more humane alternative to snap traps)
  • Electrical traps (these release an electric current that instantly kills mice instead of leaving them in prolonged pain)
  • Naturally deterrents like cinnamon and cayenne pepper
  • Ultrasonic emitters (these release soundwaves that keep rodents away)

Dogs and Compost:

If you’re lucky enough to have an apple tree in the backyard, you probably spent your summer harvesting and feasting on the delicious fruit. Come fall, however, the apples that weren’t picked start to begin and fall as trees shed their leaves.

EXPERT TIP: On your search for rotten fruit, keep an eye out for wild mushrooms. Once autumn sets in, these mushrooms have a habit of popping up all over the place and can be problematic for curious, snacky pups.

Rotting fruit makes great compost for gardens (we’re all for going green), but they’re not so great when it comes to dogs. Dogs tend to be attracted to the smell of fermented food despite the fact that ingesting these foods leads to all kinds of tummy troubles. Keep your compost bins and piles away from your dogs, and make a habit of regularly checking and cleaning the ground around your trees.

Short days, long nights: Walking the dog

As we transition into fall, we also transition into shorter day lengths. Just because the sun isn’t out as long as it was in the summer shouldn’t prevent you from getting outside with your dog for a bit of fresh air. In fact, the dampening weather makes frequent walks an even more important part of your dog’s routine. Here’s why:

EXPERT TIP: Keep tabs on your dog’s weight with this Body Condition score chart. These charts are a handy, helpful visual reference for comparing your dog’s ideal versus current weight. For optimal health, your dog should be about a 5 out of 9 on the scale.

  • Arthritis tends to flare with cold, damp weather. Keeping your dog warmed up with low-impact activities like walking supports joint health and reduces your dog’s risk of a flare-up.
  • Just like humans, dogs can experience canine cabin fever when they’re cooped up inside for too long. For those minus 30 days we’re famous for here in Canada, keep the play going indoors with a mental enrichment puzzle, a toy box free-for-all, or a friendly wrestle.
  • It’s normal for dogs to add a few extra pounds as their thick winter coats come in, but there are limits to how much weight gain is considered healthy for your dog. Pushing the limit can negatively impact their joints and internal organs, causing chronic pain for dogs (and likely hefty vet bills for pet parents). There are several reasons why a dog might be gaining too much pre-winter weight:
    • Fewer walks because their humans don’t like the cold
    • Fewer outdoor activities because their bodies aren’t accustomed to or acclimated to the cold
    • Failure to adjust food intake for exercise. Remember: calories in should be warranted on calories out.

EXPERT TIP: Depending on your dog’s cold weather tolerance, you may have to trade in your long, leisurely walks for shorter, more frequent rips around the block. There is no “right” distance to walk with your dog; do whatever is best for both of you (but do try to make it outside at least once a day).

When you head out for a walk, especially during dawn and dusk, always make sure to layer on reflective gear—for you and for your dog. The options are endless: reflective vests, harnesses, leashes, collars… even collar gadgets like collar lights will help keep you both out of harm’s way. If you have a dog with a thinner coat, look for double-duty gear that is both reflective and will protect them from crisp autumn winds and sub-zero temperatures. Fleece clothing, insulated booties, neck scarves—there’s a whole world of fall fashion ready for you to explore.

First Aid for Dogs: dry skin and paws

Dry, flaky skin is as uncomfortable for us as it is for our dogs. Less moisture in the air often means dogs aren’t only dealing with dry skin, but dry paws and noses, too.

Here are eight ways to provide dogs some much-needed relief:

EXPERT TIP: Vitamin E capsules (yes, the ones in your medicine cabinet) are an easy alternative to balms and other topical treatments. Break open a capsule and apply the liquid to your dog’s paws and noses 2-3 times per day as needed.

  • Supplement your dog with vet-recommended omega fatty acids (over-the-counter brands often fall short of the promises made on their labels). Top-quality dog food will include omegas, but often dogs need a booster when the weather cools. These supplements come in many forms but are most often sold as capsules, chews, liquids, or powders.
  • Protect their precious paws with a pair of booties. Your dog may need some time to get used to them, but it’s worthwhile to persist.
  • If you’ve noticed your dog’s paws are looking dry or beginning to crack, treat them to a 5-minute foot bath of warm water and dissolved Epsom salts.

EXPERT TIP: Baths should be kept to a minimum, especially as we move into fall. Too much grooming can make matters worse by further drying out skin.

  • Ask your vet about topical skin products that can help supplement their skin and coat, keeping it hydrated, thick, soft, and, of course, healthy.
  • Apply vet-recommended balms to their paws and nose.
  • Keep your dog well hydrated. Freshwater should be available before, during, and after a walk.
  • Choose a hydrating vet-approved shampoo for bathtime (as needed).
  • Ask your vet about dog-safe, ultra-hydrating leave-in conditioners and mousses. Who doesn’t love a coiffed coat?

A happy Jack Russell Terrier sits with her Waggle Mail subscription box - First Aid Basics for Dogs

Psst—Did you know Waggle Mail dog subscription boxes can be customized with products to help with skin and coat health? We curate each box based on the information you share about your dog. No detail is too small.

Environmental allergies

It’s tough enough to have a dog suffering from dry, cracked skin, but if your dog also happens to be prone to allergies, fall can be a frustrating time.

Often, dogs with environmental allergies will see an increase in their clinical signs as the season shift.

Warning signs your dog may have allergies (seasonal or otherwise) include:

  • Excessive shedding
  • Excessive paw licking
  • Excessive scratching and itching
  • GI symptoms (soft stool, frequent bowel movements, etc.)

Check out a full list of symptoms and suggestions for environment allergy relief over our three-part allergies in dogs series.


If you found these pet first aid tips helpful, subscribe to Waggle (e)Mail. We love sharing fun, easy, and effective ways to promote a healthy body, healthy mind, and healthy pet-parent bond with our pack members.

Signature of Dr. Christine Beck, DVM, BSc, Veterinarian; Founder and Operator of Waggle Mail

Dr. C. Beck
Registered Veterinarian, Founder & CEO

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