As the colder weather starts to approach unfortunately so do some potential hazards for our pets. Here are some common things to look out for and try to keep our pets as happy and healthy as possible over the winter.
Antifreeze (Ethylene Glycol)
Both cats and dogs are attracted to the sweet smell and taste of antifreeze, and will often sample some if left out in a container or leaking from cars. Antifreeze is highly toxic – it is rapidly absorbed (initial signs appear approximately one hour post-ingestion), and there is a high mortality rate.
Acute cases (within 12 hours of ingestion) often present as if the animal was intoxicated with alcohol: stumbling, vomiting and depression are common signs. The kidneys are most severely affected, and even if the animal seems to improve initially with treatment, they may succumb shortly after to kidney failure. The kidneys shut down, and the animal is unable to produce urine. This type of kidney failure usually happens 12-24 hours after ingestion in cats, and 36-72 hours post ingestion in dogs. If you suspect that your animal has come into contact with antifreeze, contact your vet immediately.
Arthritis and Winter
Cold, damp weather aggravates arthritis in older cats and dogs. Some younger pets who have had a bone/joint injury may also suffer. Overweight animals also are more prone to arthritis.
If your pet is having trouble getting up or laying down, navigating the stairs, or has started to snap or cry when picked up, we would recommend a visit to your vet. There are many new arthritis treatments available, which can greatly improve your pet’s quality of life.
Please NEVER medicate your dog or cat with human prescriptions or over-the-counter medications! and remember paracetamol is extremely toxic to cats!
If your pet lives mainly outside, make sure that a good shelter is provided — to shield from wind, rain, snow and cold. Take extra care to ensure that your pet is comfortable and can get into and out of their shelter easily.
If the weather is very cold make sure that your pets waterbowls do not freeze over and that there is always a supply of fresh water available.
As always, exercise is important! If there is snow on the ground, check your pet’s paws for ice balls or injuries. Rinse feet off if your pet has walked where de-icers have been used. Some de-icers are toxic when ingested (when pet licks paws). If your pet is having difficulty exercising due to depth of snow, slick icy surfaces, or appears to be winded, shorten the usual exercise times and monitor for any unusual signs.
- Plants – certain plants which we tend to have around Christmas time can be dangerous for pets. Poinsettias irritate the stomach and eyes. Berries of the Jerusalem cherry are toxic, and cause pain, vomiting and diarrhea. Holly and mistletoe, amaryllis, chrysanthemum, rhododendron and winter broom as well as Christmas berry, cherry, pepper and rose can all cause problems to pets that ingest them. Note: Liquid potpourri can cause terrible burns in an animal’s mouth should it be ingested.
- Fires/candles – Ensure pets are protected from any open flames; many cats especially like to get too close to open fires, burnt or singed whiskers may alert you to this. Candles can easily be knocked over by pets and cause serious harm to people and animals.
- Trees/decorations/presents – Christmas trees (real or artificial) can cause problems if ingested as can tree ornaments, tinsel etc. Avoid using chemicals/preservatives in your water stand if you have pets in the house.
- Food – Alcohol and chocolate are toxic. Keep drinks and sweets out of a pet’s reach. Chocolate contains a substance called theobromine, and even a tiny amount of pure chocolate can be lethal to a small dog. Dark and unsweetened baking chocolate are the most dangerous. Symptoms of poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, hyperactivity and seizures. Turkey bones left in an accessible place are almost irresistible to pets, but they can lodge in an animal’s throat or block the intestinal tract. Remove leftovers from the table and don’t leave rubbish where animals can get to it. Christmas cakes and puddings are also a big ‘no-no’ for dogs as grapes, raisins and sultanas are toxic to dogs.
If you are concerned your pet has eaten something potentially dangerous please contact your veterinary clinic as soon as possible for advice.
Hoping everyone has a warm, safe, happy and healthy Winter!