How to Keep Pets Safe from Cold- Weather Hazards.

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How to Keep Pets Safe from Cold-Weather Hazards

Cool, crisp weather brings the potential for new toxins for your pet to encounter. Let’s briefly review some seasonal risks you need to be aware of in order to keep your pet safe.


As the weather cools down, vegetation dies off and crops are harvested, mice and rats will often come inside structures looking for food and warmth. This in turn leads most home owners to look for ways to “disinvite” these unwelcome visitors! If you need to use a rodenticide, use it with extreme care and keep it as far away from your pets as possible. Many of the most most common used rodenticides can be fatal if ingested, even in very small amounts. Rodenticides often come formulated in grain-based pellets or wax blocks than can smell enticing to pets, especially dogs. Ensure that any rodenticide is enclosed in a pet-proof bait station and is secured in a place pets cannot access. Be aware, however, that some determined pets may attempt to ferret out some of these stations and that some may be able to chew through supposedly “pet proof” boxes and covers. Do not allow pets to roam your neighborhood unsupervised, because while you may take care to secure your bait stations, neighbors or area businesses may not be as careful.

If you do need to use one of these products, it is absolutely essential to keep any packaging that the substance came in so that if your pet does accidentally ingest the poison, your veterinarian will know what kind it is and how to treat it. If the rodenticide is being provided by a professional exterminator , ask for a copy of the packaging and any supporting safety information. Rodenticide is a common cause of poisoning in pets, and snap traps or live bait traps may be the safest option to consider for rodent control if you have animals in your home.  

If you think that your pet has ingested rodenticide contact your veterinarian immediately.


When the temperature starts to dip below freezing, many people add antifreeze to their cars. While this can be a lifesaver in terms of keeping a vehicle running properly in cold weather, it can be deadly for your pet. Antifreeze contains a toxic substance, ethylene glycol, which is an odorless, sweet tasting chemical that causes kidney failure, seizures and death. Just a teaspoon or a tablespoon full can be fatal to a small pet.

Pets are often poisoned when they lick up small spills in the driveway or garage. For this reason, be careful when filling up your car. Make sure none of this substance is leaking out of your car’s cooling system, and be sure to promptly clean up any spills. Store partially used containers out of reach of pets and children.

Initial signs of antifreeze ingestion include the animal appearing to be “drunk”. Other signs include nausea, vomiting, and tremors. If you think there is a chance your animal has ingested antifreeze, see your veterinarian immediately. The sooner that care can be initiated, the better the prognosis.

Cold and Flu Medications

While we all know better than to give human medications to our pets without consulting with our veterinarian, fall and winter are cold and flu season for humans, and it’s important to be on guard. If you are feeling under the weather, take care not to leave any of your human medications out in places where your pets could accidentally ingest them. Many dogs love to rip apart packaging and can accidentally ingest the pills inside the box or bottle. This is bad because our pets do not tolerate many common cold medications. Acetemainophen can cause liver failure in animals and change the composition of your pets blood so it can no longer carry oxygen. Decongestants often act like stimulants, causing elevated heart rates and blood pressure and leading to seizures.


The scent of potpourri in the air, especially at this time of the year, can be soothing to us. Keep in mind, however, that those holiday scents may also seem pretty inviting to a food driven pet. Be careful if using any liquid-type potpourri, such as that found in potpourri or warmers, to scent your home. The liquid is typically a mixture of essential oils and cationic detergents. If ingested, the cationic detergents can cause severe chemical burns to the mouth and stomach. Other signs of ingestion include drooling and vomiting. Cats are particularly prone to coming into contact with potpourri burners and holders when they jump up on a counter to investigate. Many cats will knock over these containers, getting the potpourri oil on their coats and paws. They then ingest the chemicals during grooming. When dried potpourri scented with essential oils are not as big of a concern, some pets may be attracted to chewing on or eating attractive-smelling pine cones, dried flowers or other plant material. Keep in mind that some of these flowers and plant materials may themselves be toxic to pets. It’s a good idea to keep all such items secured away from pets.


As we proceed through the fall and winter holiday season, decorative items, seasonal novelties and toys powered by small disc batteries seem to become more prevalent throughout the house. Pets may consider these loose batteries play items, and because of their small size, they may be able to consume or accidentally inhale them. You need to know that batteries are filled with alkaline substances that can cause oral, esophageal and stomach ulcers. If ingested, larger batteries can cause an obstruction. The small disc batteries in particular have other dangers as well. First, they can be inhaled into the lungs. Second, if they get stuck half way down the esophagus, the two sides can touch the disc battery and form an electoral current. This can cause a severe esophageal burn.

If you suspect that your pet has ingested a battery, you will need to see your veterinarian in order to have your pet radiographed. If the battery has been punctured, you do not want to induce vomiting, as this only creates the potential for more burns. Punctured batteries can be seen on radiographs if the battery is in pieces. Oral or esophageal burns are also another clean indicator that the substance has leaked out of the battery. Burns may be visible in the mouth area or, in other cases, your pets discomfort may be the tip off.