Winter Safety

By February 2, 2014Freddie's Blog

The Joys and Woes of Winter: Take Care to Prevent These Animal Emergencies

Wintertime can be lots of fun. But there are winter dangers for pets that you need to know about.

Hello. It’s Freddie here.

There are a lot of dogs and cats that love winter and love the snow and love being outside. (I’m not one of those cats, however. I’m kind of a cold-weather wimp who prefers to lie in the winter sun shining through the window of the veterinary clinic!)

Winter is beautiful and fun for many, but you need to be aware of some dangers for cats and dogs both indoors and out at this time of year.

First let’s talk about some toxins that may be more accessible in winter. Toxins are poisonous substances that pets shouldn’t eat, but too often do.

Antifreeze: This substance is a colourful liquid used in vehicles and often left in a puddle where a car or truck was parked in the driveway or the garage. Antifreeze has a pleasant taste, especially for dogs, and just a few slurps can be lethal.

Clean up all spills around your property. Don’t let your pet drink out of puddles in winter. Use “pet-friendly” antifreeze if at all possible.

If you notice your pet drinking antifreeze, call your veterinarian right away. If your dog or cat is acting “drunk”, or drinking a lot of water and vomiting, and there is even a small risk of antifreeze poisoning, call your veterinarian. This is definitely a matter of life and death and should not be taken lightly.

Rat and mouse poisons, also known as rodenticides: Rodents move indoors in the winter and you may find evidence of their presence in your house, garage, or outbuildings. Some people chose to use rodenticides to deal with these pests. If you use it, you MUST keep it where dogs and cats cannot access it. If you see it around, don’t let your dog go near it.

The mouse poison is often quite tasty to dogs because it looks (and tastes?) like colourful granola. Pets can also be exposed if they eat a mouse or rat that ate the poison in the first place.

Rodenticide poisoning can be difficult to notice, as there is a 3-10 day lag time before the signs show up. The issue is bleeding: the animal that ingests this substance soon can no longer make important blood-clotting factors in his body. Any unusual bleeding such as from the nose, in the urine, in the feces, unexplained bruising, or from the gums should be suspect.

The rule here- best offence is a good defense. If you see your pet eat the mouse poison, call the veterinarian and learn how you can induce vomiting right away. Even better, just take your pet to your veterinarian without delay.

Lilies: A lot of cats are getting stir crazy from being indoors all winter. Cats like to eat green things, especially plants. Many types of lilies are very poisonous and even lethal to cats. It’s best to not have these plants in your house if you share it with a feline companion, but if your cat does eat part of a lily plant, you know the drill … call the veterinarian!

Besides known toxins, there are foods and items around the house that can make your cat or dog ill.

Keep your pet away from alcoholic beverages, dark chocolate, coffee beans, moldy or spoiled foods, onions, and yeast dough.

If your dog is hanging out indoors and maybe a little bored, be careful of your own pills and prescriptions or of his prescription medications. You know dogs: they might just decide it’s fun to eat an entire bottle of pills including the plastic container.

If you think your pet needs something for pain, don’t just pop him one of your pills. This can be deadly. Cats and dogs are not people. Call your veterinarian first.

If your cat or dog lives outdoors in the winter, there are some things you can do to make life more comfortable when it gets really cold:

Feed outdoor pets a little more in winter. It takes more calories to keep the body temperature up, especially when temperature reach -15 degrees Celsius or colder.

Provide shelter. Small enclosures where dogs or cats can get away from the wind and the elements and snuggle into some blankets or straw bedding make outdoor life bearable. Sometimes the big winter hair coat is just not enough.
Speaking of that big fluffy winter coat: it can hide things that you might otherwise notice. Do a weekly coat and skin check to look for hidden cuts, wounds, lumps, weight loss, and lice or fleas.

We live in Canada and winter is part of life. Just remember to take special caution with your dogs and cats at this time of year. Be careful, have fun, stay warm!

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