As much we don't want the warm weather to go away, we can't deny the fact that leaves are slowing falling to the ground, and there is a chill in the air. That's right! Fall officially arrived Sept. 22, and that crisp, cool air is a sign of the changing seasons.

And while both you and your pet are likely enjoying a break from summer's hot and sticky weather, we must remember there are looming dangers and hazards for our furry friends. Not only do we have to keep our safety in mind, but theirs, too.

One of the most important things to remember as we gear up for the cold weather is to update your pets' vaccinations and make sure their medications are in order. Kristina Cooper, a registered veterinary technician from the Ontario Association of Veterinary Technicians and part of the Public Health Rabies Response Program, says it's important that each pet be individually assessed by a veterinarian to determine their risk factors.

"A pet who stays mostly indoors may have different risk factors than those who are often exposed to other animals or those who have an active outdoor lifestyle," Cooper said. "Rabies should always be considered, as the disease is fatal for both animals and people and is required by law in most places regardless of a pet's activity."

As the temperature begins to drop, it's critical to keep pets warm and dry.

"With shorter days of light, it is also important to make sure your pets are visible in the dark when out on their evening walks. Consider reflective collars or leashes," Cooper added.

We also must keep in mind the nuisance of fleas and ticks. These unwelcome critters can be picked up in dog parks, on trails or simply anywhere another animal has been. They can cause skin irritation, redness, and in a worst-case scenario, Lyme disease. Consult your veterinarian for an approved and effective medication to ensure your pet is protected from fleas and ticks.

With the winter holidays also approaching, we can't forget to take precautions to ensure our pets are happy and safe when the snow starts falling. Dave Wilson, director of Shelter Health and Wellness for the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) says the holidays can be an anxious time for your pets, especially with guests at your home.

"Company or strangers is not something the pet is familiar with," he said. "Sometimes they are more confused and don't know how to deal with this anxiety built up inside of them."

OSPCA says it's important to let your company know not to feed your pet from the table. Certain foods may have too much fat, protein or sugar that can overload our pets' digestive system, causing them to get sick. Foods to keep out of reach are: chocolate, raisins, grapes, bones and any rich or fatty foods.

Wilson suggests having your pet in a different room at meal time, with treats and some of their favourite toys. He recommends that once everything is settled down, let your pet choose to come to you or your guests; never force your pets. It may cause more anxiety or fear.

Halloween is another safety hazard pet owners should be aware of. With opening the door quite often for the trick-or-treaters, pets tend to dart out of the house. Wilson says Nov. 1 is the most common day of the year that animal control will receive calls about lost pets. OSPCA recommends doing the same as you would for holidays; place your pets in a quiet room with their favourite toy and some treats.

Wilson also recommends keeping emergency veterinary numbers on hand — most regular vet clinics are closed during the holidays.

"You can do a great job with just a little bit of preplanning, and not only can you enjoy a great autumn season but your pet can, too," he advised.

Let's keep our furry friends happy and healthy this fall and winter by preplanning for emergencies, and being cautious of their safety. After all, they are part of our family!

Tips to keep your pet healthy and happy during the autumn months:

  • Talk to your local veterinarian and make sure your pet is up to date on all vaccinations including rabies shot and flea-and-tick medication.
  • Be cautious of other wildlife — snakes, skunks and more — preparing for hibernation. It gets dark out earlier during the fall, and most wildlife will be out the same time you are taking your pet for a walk.
  • Watch out for your holiday decorations and food. Keep out of pets' way so they won't be tempted to chew and consume possible toxic products.
  • Keep your lawn and garden safe by watching out for any fertilizers, pesticides and poisonous plants. Mushrooms can be extremely toxic to animals, if consumed.
  • Purchase a reflective collar or leash for pets so they are visible during evening walks.
  • Take precaution during Halloween — make sure your pet can't run out of the house while the door is open.
  • Keep emergency veterinary clinics numbers on hand — know where the nearest one is to you.