Animal welfare advice for autumn

As temperatures drop and it gets dark earlier, we receive many calls about the welfare of pets, farm animals and wildlife. Check out our top tips for keeping animals safe and warm in autumn.

Acorn and sycamore poisoning in animals

Acorns, sycamore seeds and seedlings are poisonous to some farm animals, horses and pets. If  you're concerned about poisoning - don't wait for symptoms to appear - consult your vet immediately.

If farm animals (cattle, sheep and goats), horses or dogs eat acorns during autumn or young oak leaves during spring, symptoms can appear within hours or after several days.

Common signs of acorn poisoning

Symptoms of poisoning may vary between species but often include:

  • Vomiting and diarrhoea
  • Abdominal tenderness
  • Tiredness
  • Depression
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dehydration
  • Colic
  • Weakness
  • Head pressing
  • Uncoordinated movements

Dog owners

We understand it's difficult to watch your dog's every movement. However, if owners think their dog will show interest in or eat acorns, they should find a safer place to take their dog. Owners can also bring a toy or tasty treat so their pet can be easily distracted and recalled.

Farmers and horse owners

Farmers and horse owners should ensure food doesn't get too short in fields with oak trees. Animals are unlikely to gorge on anything dangerous if food is readily available. However, some horses develop a taste for acorns and oak leaves and will seek them out.

As well as acorns, sycamore seedlings and the 'helicopter' seeds can be fatal to horses. Farmers and horse owners should monitor their animals. They shouldn't have access to poisonous trees, however, if any are eating acorns or sycamore seeds, move them to a different field or fence around the trees. Beware - sycamore seeds and seedlings can spread over 100 metres away.

Common signs of sycamore poisoning

Symptoms can show very quickly in horses:

  • Trembling
  • Lethargy
  • Stiffness
  • Sweating
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Sudden death

Identify common equine poisons with our visual guide.

If you're concerned

If an animal is showing signs of poisoning - move them away from the poison, make sure they have water and consult a vet immediately. The vet might consider a surgical procedure to clean out the poison. Tell the vet when, where and how the poisoning occurred. Follow the vet's advice and never attempt to treat or medicate an animal yourself. The best thing to do is react quickly and get expert advice.

Find out more about common pet poisons.

Keeping pets safe in the dark

Just as you should always wear reflective clothing to make yourself visible when walking near roads in the dark, don't forget your pets! Fit your dog and cat with a reflective collar - but make sure you only use a quick release collar for a cat.

Animals on the roads

As the nights grow longer, we see more injured wild animals coming into our care who've been involved in road traffic accidents. Accidents involving deer are especially common during the rut, which can occur from mid-July to December (depending on the species).

Take note of warning signs, drive with extreme caution (especially early morning and evening) and report collisions with deer to the police.

Grey seal pups on the beach 

September to December is the breeding season for grey seals. Pups are born with a fluffy white coat and don't enter the sea for the first two to three weeks. Don't approach a seal pup on its own, or allow dogs or other animals to harass them, as they can give a nasty bite - and if a seal pup is scared into the water, it could be washed out to sea and get lost. 

Fireworks and bonfires during the festive season

If possible build bonfires close to the time of lighting and check them thoroughly for animals before lighting. This can help save the lives of hedgehogs and other small animals.

Loud fireworks can be terrifying for animals, but there are things you can do to help them cope. Find out more about animals and fireworks.

Feeding leftover pumpkins to animals

Foxes, badgers, birds, and pet pigs and chickens will love to eat any pumpkin that you’ve got left over after Halloween. Here are some tips to make sure they can enjoy it safely:

  • Chop the pieces into small chunks and provide it in small quantities, as this should just be a complimentary treat
  • Remove anything that isn’t eaten quickly, so it doesn't get mouldy or attract unwanted animals
  • Put pumpkin pieces on bird tables or in bird feeders, to keep it high enough that hedgehogs can’t reach it and it won’t attract rodents into your garden
  • If your pumpkin had lit candles inside, don’t feed it to animals as the soot and residue from the candle may be harmful to them
  • For pigs, make sure pumpkin hasn't come into contact with banned pig feed or other animals

Fleas in your home

Fleas are more commonly associated with the summer months, but did you know your home can provide the perfect breeding ground in autumn? Turning up your heating in the autumn to between 21 and 25 degrees Celsius can cause dormant flea pupae to hatch into adults.

It's important to treat your pet for fleas regularly all year round, as even if there are no signs of fleas in your home your pet may have a chance to catch them. Our FleaAway treatment will protect your pets from fleas, but make sure you also treat your home with a household flea spray (follow the instructions carefully). Flea pupae like dark, warm spots, so make sure you treat all floors, under sofas and beds and even spray a small amount in your hoover.

Find out more about how to get rid of fleas.

Hibernating bats

Bats look for suitable hibernation sites around October. Pipistrelles are the most likely to roost in buildings during winter. Bats and their roosts are protected by law in the UK - so you mustn't disturb or harm them in any way. Find out more about bats and the law.

Follow the links below for more seasonal advice on keeping animals safe and happy at different times of the year.

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