Things to look out for in Autumn
Updated: Mar 3, 2022
Autumn Watch list
Autumn is a lovely season for dog walks, with piles of crunchy leaves to run through and the low seasonal sun glinting through the trees. But despite its beauty, there's plenty to be wary of – from poisonous nuts and seeds to toxic autumn-flowering bulbs. We look at some of the potential plant-based hazards growing in your local park or garden.
Late-flowering bulbs, like crocus and colchicum, bring a final splash of colour to garden beds and borders, but they also present a danger to pets. All parts of the autumn-flowering crocus (Crocus speciosus) are very toxic to dogs and cats, causing vomiting, nervous excitement and, in some cases, dermatitis. Colchicum (commonly known as naked ladies) can also cause vomiting if eaten.
The bulbs of spring-flowering daffodils, tulips and snowdrops can be potentially hazardous at this time of year, too – loose bulbs are planted in the ground in autumn, and can easily be dug back up after planting by inquisitive canines. Daffodils are particularly toxic, and can be fatal if too many are accidentally eaten.
Nothing says autumn like colourful hedgerow berries. Those juicy little fruits are invaluable to wildlife, but they can be highly toxic to dogs. Holly berries are particularly hazardous if ingested, causing stomach upsets, tremors, seizures and loss of balance. And mistletoe is another persistent offender: if eaten, the berries can cause gastrointestinal issues and dermatitis.
Other autumn fruits and berries that could cause vomiting and tummy upsets include orange yew berries, spindle berries (Euonymus europaeus), grapes growing on garden vines, vibrant pink pokeweed (Phytolacca) berries and the bright-red berries of arum (also known as cuckoo pint).
Seeds and nuts
Who doesn't love an autumn conker battle? While native British trees like horse chestnut, oak and beech are a welcome addition to the landscape, their fruits can be hazardous to dogs. Conkers, acorns and beech nuts can cause upset tummies if too many are eaten, and can also cause a blockage in the throat if accidentally swallowed whole.
Wisteria seeds are another potential danger. The little brown seeds are held in long, velvety pods and they're highly toxic if ingested, causing a burning sensation in the mouth, stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhoea.
Leaves generally pose little danger to dogs and, most of the time, will provide hours of fun for sniff-happy canines. But oak leaves could make your dog feel ill if eaten in quantity – they can cause vomiting and, in a worst-case scenario, could affect the kidneys.
Yew leaves are also highly toxic. Yew trees and hedges are often grown in parks and gardens, and loose foliage clippings from hedge pruning and slivers of bark can be deadly if ingested. Symptoms of yew tree poisoning include dizziness, a dry mouth and noticeably dilated pupils, followed by abdominal cramps and vomiting. The leathery leaves of ivy can also be harmful if eaten in volume.
Most flowering plants start to fade at the end of summer, but there are some blooms that are specifically grown for autumn interest. Hydrangea, cultivated for its large, blowsy pink or blue flowers, is toxic to dogs and cats because some parts of the plant contain cyanide. Symptoms of hydrangea poisoning include vomiting and diarrhoea and, in severe cases, could lead to lethargy and confusion.
Chrysanthemum is another autumn favourite with a darker side. The flowers have a very distinctive smell which helpfully, puts most animals off, but this pretty plant could cause vomiting, depression and a loss of coordination if eaten.
Dogs Trust also has a definitive list of plant hazards