Is It Safe For Dogs To Play In Piles Of Leaves?

All summer long, you've been cooped up in your air conditioned home and unable to go outside much because of stifling heat. So when autumn rolls around, you get excited about the cooler weather and the prospect of playing in the leaves with your pup.

Golden Retriever Dog in Fall colored leaves
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You love watching your dog frolic in a pile of leaves and taking cute pictures of him when he has a big smile on his face. You've never given this enjoyable activity a second thought, but now you're a bit concerned: Should you be letting your dog play in a leaf pile, or could it somehow be dangerous for him?

Before letting your pup jump into a big pile of leaves, read up on whether or not it's safe. Here are some facts about dogs playing in leaves that you should keep in mind this fall and winter.

Leaf piles may cause allergic reactions

If it recently rained, the pile of leaves in your backyard may be wet. Unfortunately, a damp leaf pile is a breeding ground for things like bacteria and mold. Your dog may have an allergic reaction to them if you're not careful. You'll know your dog is allergic if he scratches his skin, coughs, sneezes, and has watery eyes. If you notice any of these symptoms, you'll need to take him to the vet as soon as possible for treatment.

Small dog playing in piles of autumn leaves
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There may be sharp objects in the leaves

There is always the possibility that branches and sticks could be in your leaf piles, which may end up harming your dog if he jumps in. He may only get scratched, or, in the worst case scenario, a branch or stick could impale him. If this happens, you would have to take him to the vet immediately to be evaluated. While there, the vet may need to do surgery and/or put your dog on medicine until he heals.

Insects and rodents could be living there

Leaf piles could attract things like spiders, rodents, and other insects. What you really need to watch out for is ticks, which can easily jump on your pup and infect him with Lyme disease. Before your dog comes back inside from playing in the leaves, make sure you check for ticks around his eyelids, in and around his ears, under his front legs, in the tail area, between his toes and back legs, and under his collar.

If you spot a tick or notice that your dog has symptoms like a fever, no appetite, swelling in the joints, or a lack of energy, you'll need to go to the vet as soon as possible. You will have to get the tick removed and possibly put your dog on antibiotics for 30 days to treat him. Though your dog can't pass Lyme disease onto you, there is a risk if he comes into the house with a tick on him and it jumps onto you.

Small Jack russell terrier with autumn leaf on his face
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Safety tips for playing in piles of leaves

Before you let your pup jump into a leaf pile, put flea and tick prevention medicine on him to ward off these bugs. You may want to poke the pile of leaves with a rake to see if there are any other insects or animals hiding in there as well. If the leaves are wet, you should avoid letting him play in there altogether. When raking your leaves, make sure sticks and branches aren't in the piles as well.

Also, keep in mind that there are many other fun fall activities you can do with your dog., if you decide not to take the risks associated with playing in piles of leaves. You can take a hike on a local trail, or bring him along when you go to a pumpkin patch or an apple farm. If you do decide to let your dog play in piles of leaves, make sure to take the necessary precautions listed above.