Winter Hazards For Your Pet

By Candi Amundson, CVT
Veterinary Information Specialist at Pet Poison Helpline®

Miniature Dachshund Puppy with Snow on His NoseAntifreeze

Antifreeze can leak from a car radiator on the ground. Some animals are unfortunately attracted to this due to the sweet smell and taste. This chemical is absorbed very rapidly once ingested. There is a narrow margin of safety when animals ingest this liquid and small amounts can lead to permanent damage to the kidneys. If a pet is suspected to have been exposed to Antifreeze it is imperative that this pet be taken to a Vet immediately for treatments.

Ice Melts

Most ice melts contain large amounts of sodium salts. Some ice melts can cause damage to the paw pads when stepped on. These can get stuck in the paws and cause redness, cracking, or chapping. Ingestion of these melts can cause mild to severe toxicity resulting in upset stomach, vomiting, and neurologic signs (trouble walking, muscle tremors, or seizures). There are “pet-friendly” ice melts that may help to minimize the chance of an injury or toxicity. Also, try to wash your pet’s paws off when they come in from outside.

Frost-Bite & Hypothermia

During the extreme cold temperatures it is possible that your pet could rapidly develop frostbite or hypothermia. When it gets cold, the body naturally pulls blood from all extremities to the internal organs to retain body heat. This may leave your pet’s ears, tail, and paws exposed where the tissue can be damaged and cause frostbite on these extremities. Dogs that have short fur, are small, or are geriatric, may be at greater risk. Try to keep the time spent outside to a minimum and try using sweaters/coats or booties to keep them warm.

Stray cats and cars

When starting your car after a quick trip to the store or from your garage it is best to bang on the hood or honk the horn of the car to scare away any stray sleepers. An outdoor cat or stray cat may find a warm car engine a great place to take a nap. If the car is started while a feline is under, this could cause injuries or death once the fan belt starts moving.

Rodent Poisons

These products are commonly used more during the colder months and can cause greater risk for your pets. There are different ingredients in the blocks or pellets, however these commonly look the same (dye color). Always keep packaging from rat or mouse killers in the event your pet ingests this. This will help your Vet or Poison Control Center to quickly identify the toxin and determine the specific treatments for your animal. These can cause multiple symptoms depending on the ingredient in the bait (internal bleeding, brain swelling, and kidney failure). When using rodent poisons, place the bait in protective bait stations and keep in areas where your pet cannot access these.