Should You Let Your Dog Play in Leaves?

tri-color border collie in a pile of leaves

Playing in leaves is a classic fall activity. It can be a lot of fun for both you and your dog. But, there are potential dangers to be aware of. Should you let your dog play in leaves? Here’s what you need to know:

Should You Let Your Dog Play in Leaves?

For the most part, yes, it’s fine to let your dog play in leaves. But, it really depends on your dog, your area, and whether the leaves are in your yard or are from somewhere you’re unfamiliar with. It’s not the cleanest activity, but there usually aren’t many issues with dogs playing with leaves.

When there are issues, it’s usually because the leaves contain something dangerous or irritable for your dog or it’s an unfamiliar pile of leaves that is covering something that could injure them. As long as you’re taking precautions and keeping your dog’s individual health concerns in mind, it’s likely fine to let your dog play in leaves.

4 Potential Dangers for Dogs Playing in Leaves

As with anything you do with your dog, there are potential dangers to be aware of. These are some potential dangers for dogs playing in leaves to keep in mind:

1. Old Leaves Can Harbor Mold and Harmful Bacteria

Old, rotting piles of leaves are usually perfect environments for mold and bacteria that can cause infections. The longer a leaf pile has been sitting around, the more moisture it tends to collect and the more likely it is to harbor mold spores, especially towards the bottom of the pile.

Inhaling mold spores has the potential to cause a lot of reactions in your dog, especially if they happen to be prone to allergies or skin issues. The most common symptoms when a dog has been inhaling mold spores are respiratory and include coughing or wheezing.

Bacteria also thrive in piles of old, rotting, and wet leaves. Unfortunately, they are the perfect environment where more dangerous bacteria, like staph, thrive. If your dog has an open wound or cut somewhere and they run through leaves containing something like staph, they could end up with a serious bacterial infection.

2. Pests Love Leaves

Ticks, flea, and other critters that can irritate your dog love to hang out in leaves. Ticks are generally the biggest concern, but your dog could encounter other insects and animals. Your dog could end up running into stinging insects, fleas, poisonous spiders, and rodents in random piles of leaves. Bites from any of these could cause a whole host of problems.

3. Piles of Leaves Can Hide Sharp Sticks

Sticks are a common component of leaf piles. Although it’s usually small twigs, piles of leaves can also hide bigger sharp sticks that could scratch up your dog. Their fur is usually a good protectant, but depending on how fast they’re running into a pile of leaves, they could end up with some cuts and abrasions. Skin abrasions are less common, especially in dogs with thick coats, but corneal abrasions are a definite concern.

4. Some Leaves Are Toxic and Piles Can Contain Chemicals

Some dogs chew on or eat leaves and some don’t. If your dog likes to eat leaves, this is a potential danger to keep in mind. If Red Maple and Chestnut trees are common to your area, you want to keep your leaf-chewer away from those piles.

Red Maple leaves are toxic to dogs if they are ingested. Although Chestnut leaves are not much of a concern, chestnuts are toxic when ingested. So, it’s generally best to keep away from those piles as well since they will likely contain chestnuts.

If the leaf pile is unfamiliar and you’re not sure where all those leaves came from, you also don’t know what sort of yard, road, etc. chemicals may be all over them. These chemicals could irritate a dog’s skin and are toxic if ingested. Here, too, if you have a leaf-chewer on your hands, it’s best to stick to familiar piles of leaves.

4 Safety Tips for Letting Your Dog Play in Leaves

Taking precautions when you do something with your dog is a great way to keep them and you safe as you have fun. Here are some safety tips for letting your dog play in leaves:

1. Avoid Old and Wet Piles of Leaves

Freshly-raked leaves that are still dry are the best piles of leaves for your dog to run through. If a pile of leaves has been there for a while and is weighed down with moisture, it’s best to keep your dog out of it.

2. Check for Ticks and Pests After Playing in Leaves

Ticks are a serious problem for dogs. Not only are they a common pest, but they can also transmit Lyme Disease and they love leaves. One of the ways to protect your dog is to make sure they are up to date on preventive tick control treatment.

This is an essential way to prepare your dog for tick season. But, it also helps to protect them when they’re playing in leaves and running around outside as well. It’s also a good idea to give your dog a thorough once-over once they’re done playing in the leaves. This allows you to check for any abrasions, injuries, pests, etc.

3. Stick to Familiar Piles of Leaves if You Can

It’s not always easy to only play in piles of leaves you’re families with. But, if you can, it can cut down on a lot of potential dangers for your dog. If you know where the leaves have come from, then you know there aren’t red maple leaves or chestnuts in them.

You also might have a better idea of any chemicals that might be present. And, if you know the landscape they’re covering, then you have a good idea of whether they are covering something that could inure your dog.

4. Bathe Your Dog After Playing in Leaves

Another good idea to make sure no pests, chemicals, etc. are on your dog after they play in leaves is to give them a bath when they are done. Some dogs have sensitive skin that gets irritated if they are bathed too often.

In this case, you can likely get away with wiping them down with a damp cloth and a comb. This will still help you remove any dirt, debris, pests, etc. that might still be there after you check them over.

Should you let your dog play in leaves? Probably, but it all depends on your dog and the situation. If you take precautions and your dog ends up having skin irritation, allergies, or another bad reaction to playing in leaves, then you know you shouldn’t let them play in leaves again. If you take precautions and your dog is fine after playing in leaves, then you know it’s okay.