Every season has its risks for pets, but when the cooler weather rolls in, here are five things I know we will be getting calls about at the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center. The best medicine is prevention, so as you go about your winterizing and decorating this fall, make sure that your furry companion cannot gain access to any of these common but often overlooked hazards — several of which can look or smell appealing to pets.
As always, if you suspect your pet has come in contact with any of these substances, immediately contact your veterinarian.
Antifreeze contains ethylene glycol, an odorless, sweet-tasting chemical that can be deadly for dogs and cats. Most pets are poisoned by the substance when they lick up a spill in your driveway or garage, so it's important to fill up your car as carefully as possible and to clean up any spills right away.
If your pet has ingested antifreeze, he may appear to be "drunk." Other signs include nausea, vomiting and tremors. See your veterinarian immediately if you suspect your dog or cat has ingested antifreeze. Even a small amount can be fatal.
Cold and Flu Medications
Feeling a little under the weather? Make sure any human medications you're taking are secured away from your pets. A dog who comes across a pill bottle or box may rip apart the packaging and accidentally ingest the medication inside. Acetaminophen can cause liver failure in pets and damage red blood cells. Decongestants can cause elevated heart rates and blood pressure, leading to seizures.
As the weather gets colder, rodents may come inside your house looking for food and warmth. If you need to use a rodenticide to get rid of the pests, use it with extreme care and keep it out of reach of your pets. Most rodenticides can be fatal if ingested, even in small amounts. Even if the rodenticide is enclosed in a pet-proof bait station, you'll need to make sure it's secured in a place that your animal can't access. Determined dogs and cats may sniff out these stations and chew through the packaging.
If you have to use a rodenticide, keep any packaging the substance came in so that if your dog or cat ingests the poison, your veterinarian will know what kind it is and how to treat it.
Potpourri may make your home smell warm and inviting, but those holiday scents can lead to trouble for a food-driven pet. Liquid-type potpourri is especially dangerous, as the liquid is usually made up of essential oils and cationic detergents. These detergents contain corrosive agents that can cause severe chemical burns to the stomach and mouth.
Cats can be especially at risk if they jump up on the counter and knock over a potpourri pot or warmer and get the oil on their coats and paws, then accidentally ingest the toxins during grooming. Any potpourri in your home should be kept in a secure, out-of-reach location or not used at all.
With the fall and winter holiday season approaching, you may have more battery-operated decorative items, toys and seasonal novelties around the house. Should your pet accidentally consume a battery, it can cause all sorts of health issues: The alkaline substances inside them can cause oral, esophageal and stomach ulcers; a large battery can cause an obstruction; and a smaller battery can be inhaled into the lungs. Furthermore, if a small disc battery gets stuck in the esophagus, the two sides of the esophagus can touch the disc battery and form an electric current, potentially causing a severe electric burn.
If you suspect your dog or cat has ingested a battery, contact your veterinarian immediately and do not induce vomiting — if the battery has been punctured, this could lead to more burns.