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- Pet dental health matters year round
- Spaying or neutering benefits pet’s health
- Cold Weather Emergencies
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- Make vet visits enjoyable for you & pets
- Winter pet hazards
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Winter pet hazards
As we prepare for the depths of winter and another season of snow and cold, it is important to remember how our activities affect our pets. This article outlines some common seasonal pet hazards and what to do if your pet is affected.
Fan Belt Injuries
As temperatures drop, outdoor cats frequently seek the warmth of a car’s engine block and will curl up there to sleep. When the engine is activated, the cat can become tangled in the car’s fan belt, resulting in serious injuries and even death. Prior to starting your car, making noise (shaking your keys, tapping on the car grill) may wake up any sleeping cats so they can make a getaway before you start your car.
Even though pets have heavy fur, they are still susceptible to the elements, especially older pets, very young animals and smaller dogs and cats. If your pet is housed outdoors, it is important to provide him or her with some shelter from the weather. Pets should have an enclosure that is raised off the ground and protects them from drafts. It is also important to remember to provide fresh water to your outdoor pet and make sure their water does not freeze. When temperatures drop into the ‘teens, it is best to provide pets with a heated enclosure. Smaller dogs and dogs with short, sparse hair coats may benefit from a coat or sweater.
During the cold weather, it is important to thoroughly wipe off your dog's legs and stomach when he comes in out of the sleet, snow or ice. If his paws are not wiped, he may ingest salt, antifreeze or other potentially dangerous chemicals that are on the ground. He may also bleed from snow or encrusted ice, so be sure to check them when he comes back inside.
This is a particularly hazardous chemical that is used more frequently this time of year when people begin to winterize their cars, boats and homes. The toxic principle is ethylene glycol, and it is found in antifreeze and de-icing solutions for cars, airplanes, airport runways, and boats. It is used in cooling and heating systems, hydraulic brake fluids, electrolytic condensers, plasticizers, polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles, lacquers, resins, wood stains, leather dyeing, photographic developing solutions, textile processing, polyester fibers, synthetic waxes, cosmetics, pharmaceutical products and safety explosives.
It is important to store and dispose of all compounds containing ethylene glycol in a manner to prevent exposure of pets (and children). If an accidental ingestion is suspected, seek veterinary care immediately as the efficacy of the antidote is extremely time dependent. Clinical signs of ingestion include vomiting, weakness, wobbly gait, falling over, seizures and ultimately death as a result of kidney failure.
Although the holiday season is on its way out, a few plants may be lingering in your home, and it is important to remember that a few of them, including holly, poinsettias and American mistletoe, could harm your cat or dog. The milky, detergent-like sap of holly and poinsettias can cause gastrointestinal problems, which is rarely fatal for pets but can cause a lot of discomfort. Holly is slightly more dangerous than poinsettias because it contains methylxanthines (also found in chocolate and caffeine) and cyanogens, which can harm your pet but rarely lead to poisoning from small ingestions. Additionally, large ingestions of holly may also cause a bowel obstruction because the leaves are difficult to digest. A third festive yet potentially dangerous plant, American mistletoe, is rarely fatal, but can cause signs such as low blood pressure and cardiovascular collapse. Be sure to keep these three plants away from pets, and seek veterinary advice if your pet should ingest them.
As cabin fever sets in this winter, you may be tempted to bake your own sweet treats, but make sure your pet doesn’t find something harmful. As most people know, chocolate can be toxic to pets, and the darker the chocolate, the more danger it poses. However, xylitol, a sugar substitute found in human food items, such as sugarless gum, sugar-free baked goods, candy and toothpaste, is lesser known but can also be toxic to pets. While harmless to humans, xylitol can cause dogs to have severe side effects, including hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and liver failure.
As early as 30 to 60 minutes following ingestion, dogs may demonstrate clinical signs of hypoglycemia, which includes weakness, staggering and seizures. Following this, as early as nine hours after ingestion, dogs may have evidence of liver failure, which includes vomiting, loss of appetite and jaundice. When treated before the onset of liver failure, dogs generally have a very good prognosis for full recovery after ingesting xylitol; however, the prognosis is more guarded for dogs that develop fulminant liver failure. For this reason, it is important to seek veterinary advice or attention as early as possible following known ingestion for the best possible outcome.
In conclusion, as you begin to wind down from the holidays and gear up for 2014, be sure to have the following contact information easily available in case any emergencies should arise throughout the new year.
Important Phone Numbers
- Veterinary Specialists of Rochester and Animal Emergency Service: 585-424-1277
- ASPCA Poison Control Center: 888-426-4435 or online at http://www.aspcapro.org/animal-poison-control.php
- National Animal Poison Control Center: 1-800-213-6680 or online at http://www.petpoisonhelpline.com/
Kristen Woosley, DVM, DACVECC
Veterinary Specialists of Rochester
Monroe Veterinary Associates