Ready or not, fall is approaching. The white pants are put away, the trips to the beach come to a halt, the kids are back in school, and cinnamon spice candles and fall decorations cover the house! Personally, I just love this time of year and the start of the holiday season. With all the allure and beauty of the season, unfortunately, there are some common pet emergencies that I see at my animal hospital. I wanted to take a moment to prepare everyone for common fall pet dangers.
Football parties and food
It's officially football season, and everyone loves hosting the game. Unfortunately, I see a lot of upset stomachs during the fall because of table scraps and dangerous foods that guests give pets.
Dogs and cats are used to eating the same food every day. Their gastrointestinal tracts develop natural flora (or bacteria) that specifically digest their regular food. When dogs eat something that they are unaccustomed to, such as nachos and chicken wings, they can develop severe inflammation, vomiting and diarrhea. It can also lead to more serious conditions such as pancreatitis.
In addition to foreign foods, some foods in large quantities are toxic to our pets, such as grapes, onions, garlic and raisins. Some foods can present a risk for choking, such as:
- Corn on the cob
- Fruits with pits
- Foods with bones
- Toothpicks or skewers
I have surgically removed all of these items, which can be very costly and stressful. Make sure to talk to your guests, especially kids, before parties and remind them not to feed your dogs any food. You want to enjoy the party too, not spend it looking after a pet with an upset stomach.
There are certain types of mushrooms that can be toxic for our dogs, causing:
- Abdominal pain
- Liver and kidney disease
Amanita phalloides is a mushroom found throughout the United States which can be difficult to identify. I tell my pet parents to avoid all mushrooms and consider them toxic until proven otherwise. Make sure to check your yard for any wild mushrooms, and keep a look out when you take your pets for a walk.
Mothballs contain either paradichlorobenzene or naphthalene, which can cause:
- Severe abdominal pain
- Possible kidney or liver failure
- Severe abnormality of your pet’s red blood cells if ingested
If you use mothballs, please make sure they are well out of the reach of your pets.
Antifreeze has a sweet smell and taste and our pets love to lick it. Antifreeze is extremely dangerous if ingested and is one of the most common forms of poisoning in pets. As little as one teaspoon in a cat or a tablespoon or two for dogs, depending on the size of animal, can be fatal. Signs of early poisoning include acting drunk or uncoordinated, excessive thirst, and lethargy.
There are several different types of chemicals in mouse and rat poisons, all with different active ingredients. Many of these mouse and rat baits are toxic and can be deadly if ingested. If your dog ingests any rodenticides, bring him to your veterinarian immediately. Try and take the label or box that the rodenticide came with so your veterinarian can assess the active ingredient and whether it is toxic. When placing rodenticides, it is imperative to keep them away from your pets!
Compost bins or piles
Piles of decomposing and decaying organic matter and molding food products in your backyard compost pile have the potential to contain "tremorgenic mycotoxins," meaning molds which cause tremors. Even small amounts ingested can result in tremors or seizures within 30 minutes to several hours.
I hope this helps all my pet parents out there be more aware of all the possible fall pet hazards. So get out there with your pets and enjoy the beautiful weather with safety and caution. My goal always is to keep our pets safe and healthy. As much as I love seeing them walk in through my doors, I prefer to help avoid "sick" trips to the veterinarian. Happy fall everyone!
If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian as they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.
Cold Weather Safety Tips
Exposure to winter’s dry, cold air and chilly rain, sleet and snow can cause chapped paws and itchy, flaking skin, but these aren’t the only discomforts pets can suffer. Winter walks can become downright dangerous if chemicals from ice-melting agents are licked off of bare paws. To help prevent cold weather dangers from affecting your pet’s health, please heed the following advice from our experts:
- Repeatedly coming out of the cold into the dry heat of your home can cause itchy, flaking skin. Keep your home humidified and towel dry your pet as soon as he comes inside, paying special attention to his feet and in-between the toes. Remove any snow balls from between his foot pads.
- Never shave your dog down to the skin in winter, as a longer coat will provide more warmth. If your dog is long-haired, simply trim him to minimize the clinging ice balls, salt crystals and de-icing chemicals that can dry his skin, and don’t neglect the hair between his toes. If your dog is short-haired, consider getting him a coat or sweater with a high collar or turtleneck with coverage from the base of the tail to the belly. For many dogs, this is regulation winter wear.
- Bring a towel on long walks to clean off stinging, irritated paws. After each walk, wash and dry your pet’s feet and stomach to remove ice, salt and chemicals—and check for cracks in paw pads or redness between the toes.
- Bathe your pets as little as possible during cold spells. Washing too often can remove essential oils and increase the chance of developing dry, flaky skin. If your pooch must be bathed, ask your vet to recommend a moisturizing shampoo and/or rinse.
- Massaging petroleum jelly or other paw protectants into paw pads before going outside can help protect from salt and chemical agents. Booties provide even more coverage and can also prevent sand and salt from getting lodged between bare toes and causing irritation. Use pet-friendly ice melts whenever possible.
- Like coolant, antifreeze is a lethal poison for dogs and cats. Be sure to thoroughly clean up any spills from your vehicle, and consider using products that contain propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol.
- Pets burn extra energy by trying to stay warm in wintertime. Feeding your pet a little bit more during the cold weather months can provide much-needed calories, and making sure she has plenty of water to drink will help keep her well-hydrated and her skin less dry.
- Make sure your companion animal has a warm place to sleep, off the floor and away from all drafts. A cozy dog or cat bed with a warm blanket or pillow is perfect.
- Remember, if it’s too cold for you, it’s probably too cold for your pet, so keep your animals inside. If left outdoors, pets can freeze, become disoriented, lost, stolen, injured or killed. In addition, don’t leave pets alone in a car during cold weather, as cars can act as refrigerators that hold in the cold and cause animals to freeze to death.
Keeping Warm: Fur Isn't Flawless
We may admire our pets' plush coats, but as beautiful as fur is, it's not a perfect insulator, especially when it's very cold.
In winter, pets can suffer from the weather extremes "for the same reason that mountain climbers can get hypothermia no matter what type of protective clothing they are wearing," says Oregon veterinarian Marla J. McGeorge, DVM. "Mammalian systems for heat retention and regulation can be overwhelmed by excessive cold."
And, if an animal's coat gets wet, the fur loses much of its insulating ability, McGeorge tells WebMD. For cats and dogs with short fur, the protection is even more minimal, "sort of like wearing a T-shirt when it's below freezing." Your pet's toes, nose, and ears are even more vulnerable to chilly temps.
That's why, in winter, pets need protection from extreme temperatures, which includes warm, dry, draft-free shelter plenty of food and lots of water. Take precautions any time the temperatures drop below freezing, says Jean Sonnenfield, DVM, an Atlanta veterinarian. And remember, if it’s too cold for you, it’s probably too cold for your pet.
Plants and Flowers
Threats to your pet’s health can also come from outside the home. Some plants and flowers can be harmful if your pet eats them. Below is a list of the more common plants and flowers that may be dangerous for your pet:
- Almond, apricot, cherry, nectarine, peach, and plum trees and shrubs
- Aloe Vera
- Caster Bean
- Corn Plant
- Daylily and True Lily
- English Ivy
- Gloriosa Lily
- Golden Pothos
- Hyacinth and Tulip (especially the bulbs)
- Mother-in-Law Tongue
- Mountain Laurel
- Narcissus, Daffodil, Paperwhite, and Jonquil
- Peace Lily
- Rhododendron and Azalea
- Rosary Pea
- Sago Palm
- Stinging Nettle
- Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow Plant
- Yew Bush