Thursday, November 10, 2016

Dog fungus alert: Why your canines should avoid leaf piles

Sinead the Boston terrier in yellow leaves

Anyone who's a fan of Charlie Brown knows that leaves are fun for both dogs and humans. With a running start, your dog can jump into a huge pile of leaves and create a whirlwind all his own. And that fun is essentially free.

What could be better, right?

Well, there's just one problem with letting your dog run free through the leaves, and it involves bacteria.

An innocent pile of leaves you find on the ground in your neighborhood could be tainted by all sorts of bacteria. Those little cells play an important job, as they break down cell matter and help vital nutrients to enter the soil. Without the work of that bacteria, we'd all be drowning in huge piles of garbage that never got smaller and never went away. We need that bacteria to keep working.

But some types of bacteria in leaf piles can also attack sensitive skin on the belly and feet of a dog. And some dogs are sensitive to the biochemical marker bacterial cells put out. This means some dogs that walk through left piles end up with nasty skin infections. And others come out of a bout of leaf walking with rashes and skin sensitivities.

Let's not forget too that leaf piles are a haven for little bugs and critters that like to hitch rides on our dogs, including ticks and spiders and fleas. Those little creatures could also move into our homes when they ride in on a dog's fur, and sometimes, they're hard to get rid of.

What's a better approach?

Boston terrier in leaves

I keep my own sidewalk free of leaves, and many of my neighbors do the same. If I keep my dogs on a leash when they're walking with me, they can't run off to jump through unattended leaf piles. They can't get far enough away from me to do that.

When we head to parks, I keep my two on their leashes. That's a no brainer for me, as I have no parks near me with off leash options. But when I lived in Portland next to many such parks, I used the same approach. Until the parks team came and moved the leaves away, the leashes stayed on.

I also keep plenty of cookies and treats with me this time of year. Keeping dogs away from the things they love is a little easier when you have something in your hands or pockets that the dogs just love. I'd rather not pull on them (especially because Liam's back is tricky), and treats help to ensure that I just don't need to pull.

Do you let your dog jump and run through the leaves? Why? Leave me a note and let me know. Maybe you can change my mind!


  1. Very interesting, I will make sure my niece reads this- her Jack Russell loves to play in the leaves.

  2. Great information, Jean. We never have thought of that...makes me wonder, should I leave the leaves alone too? Pawkisses for a Happy Day :) <3