With the changing of the seasons comes beautiful leaves, football, snowfall, and pumpkin spice lattes. It also brings colder weather. While many of us enjoy the drop-in temperature, it is important that we remember our furry friends to make sure they are happy and safe this fall and winter. Many dangers exist around the house that constitute as medical emergencies. Some areas to watch out for include:
Just like us, our pets can experience frostbite if exposed to below freezing temperatures or icy conditions (frozen bodies of water, snow, icy sidewalks, etc.). Pets without thick coats, young pets, senior pets, and those that may be immune compromised are at an increased risk of experiencing frostbite.
Frostbite, tissue damage caused by decreased blood flow to certain parts of the body, most commonly occur in ears, paws, tails, and noses (extremities furthest from the heart). At first, frostbite often manifests as skin that is cold to the touch; ice may initially cover the area. Once warmed, the area often becomes inflamed and painful or the skin color may change to a blue or black color. Pets that may be experiencing frostbite should be taken to a pet medical facility for treatment to help save the extremity from skin sloughing or complete loss of the infected area.
Hypothermia can also occur in pets that are exposed to cold temperatures for extended periods of time. Hypothermic patients will typically experience a drop in their body temperature (below 90 degrees Fahrenheit). They will often appear subdued or lethargic and may appear to be shivering or trembling. Hypothermia is considered a medical emergency and pets should immediately be taken to the veterinarian as soon as possible to assess their condition.
Ingestion of antifreeze
Antifreeze toxicity cases increase as the temperature drops. Antifreeze, ethylene glycol, is extremely toxic to our pets. Signs of toxicity can occur in as little as 30 minutes; symptoms may include drooling, lack of coordination, seizures, vomiting, and immediate changes in water consumption or urinary habits. Ingestion of antifreeze is always considered an emergency. Immediate veterinary care and aggressive medical treatment is necessary or the pet will not survive.
Ingestion of toxic foods
With colder weather comes the holiday season. Ingestion of chocolate (caused by a compound called theobromine that pets- especially dogs- cannot break down easily), pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas from eating food pets are not accustomed to), foreign body (from attempting to eat bones that are unable to be broken down in the gastrointestinal tract), and alcohol ingestion are just a few of the dangers are pets face this time of year. Keeping pets away from the candy dish, treat bags, presents, and the dining room table while eating or entertaining guests is vital to keeping our pets safe this upcoming holiday season. Calling the veterinarian if you expect your pet may have consumed something outside of their ordinary diet is recommended as soon as possible to determine if your pet needs to seek emergency medical care
While holiday decorations are fun and festive for us, they can be dangerous for our furry friends. Tinsel, ribbons, and garland are desirable for our pets (especially cats). Ingestion of these can result in obstruction of the gastrointestinal tract; obstructions often lead to immediate emergency surgery. Ornaments can be broken and cause injury to paws or the mouth. Electrical cords can be chewed and result in electrocution. Poinsettias and mistletoe are both toxic to cats and dogs. Symptoms of toxicity vary from irritation of the mouth, breathing abnormalities, and death.
Being aware of the dangers that our pets may face during cold weather is important. Limiting the amount of time outdoors and providing warm, safe shelter is important. Keeping pets away from dangerous chemicals (like antifreeze) and dangerous foods is also imperative. Resisting the urge to give treats and table scraps, and educating visitors about the dangers associated with some foods, is important. Being aware and not using dangerous holiday decorations and plants can keep our pets safe through the winter months and holiday season.