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Why pet owners should avoid letting dogs frolick in leaf piles

​Old leaf piles can harbor hidden health hazards, veterinarians say

Photo (c) InkkStudios - Getty Images
As Autumn moves in, that big leaf pile may look like lots of fun, but pet owners should take care to avoid letting their dogs dive into one that’s been sitting awhile. Leaf piles can harbor mold, ticks, and other fall irritants that can adversely affect dogs' health.

For some dogs, damp leaf piles -- which often contain mold and bacteria -- can be a source of an allergic reaction. To tell if your dog is bothered by leaf mold, veterinary experts recommend keeping an eye out for sniffling, sneezing, and other symptoms of a mold allergy.

“Mold-allergic dogs sneeze frequently, and they may develop a cough or have watery eyes,” say the experts at VetInfo.com. “Other dog-specific signs of a mold allergy include recurring ear infections and licking, scratching, and biting at their skin because it becomes itchy.”

Allergy-inducing mold spores are less of a concern for freshly raked piles, but old leaf piles are the perfect environment for spores and bacteria to breed, experts say.

Sticks and ticks

In addition to mold, leaf piles may conceal sticks and branches. Pointy pieces raked up with leaves can cut or wound pets and lead to costly vet bills, according to the experts at pet insurance company Petplan.

“While it is a rare occurrence, getting impaled by a sharp stick can (and does) happen, whether while jumping in a leaf pile, running through the woods, or playing a rousing game of fetch,” says Petplan, adding that puncture wounds stemming from stick impalement cost an average of $646 to treat.

Leaf piles that have been sitting for a few days may also contain snakes, ticks, and other bugs. The older the pile of leaves, the higher the risk that it has become home to these creatures.

Poison plants

Additionally, red maple leaves, wild mushrooms, and fallen chestnuts (or “conkers”) pose a health hazard to dogs. The leaves of red maple trees can impair red blood cell function in dogs, while conkers -- which contain a poison called aesculin -- can be toxic if ingested in large quantities.

Signs of poisoning in dogs include vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, lethargy, excessive drooling, and lack of coordination. Call your vet immediately if your dog has any of these symptoms after ingesting an unknown plant.

While indoors is the safest place for your pet to be during yard work, the experts at Petplan say there is likely no harm in letting your pooch play in freshly raked piles of leaves that have been checked for sticks.

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