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Ask the Vet: Winter Hazards by Kristel Weaver DVM, MPVM
November 30, 2019

We are lucky to live in a climate with mild winters. We are also lucky to live close to so many different terrains – deserts, beaches, and the mountains! Because many families travel with their pets to snowy places like Tahoe, I have included some extreme weather tips in this article.  Hopefully with a little planning and precaution, your pet stays warm, happy and healthy this winter.

Outdoor hazards:

Cats in engines When it’s cold outside, a warm car engine is a cozy place for outdoor cats to nap.  Consider honking your horn or banging on the hood before turning on the engine, to prevent injury to an outdoor cat.

Ingestion of antifreeze Antifreeze has a sweet flavor but is extremely toxic, causing rapid kidney failure and death.  Make sure to clean up all drips in your garage and driveway and keep bottles closed and out of reach. If you suspect your pet has ingested antifreeze get them to the vet IMMEDIATELY.

Snow between the toes If you take your dogs hiking in the snow keep the hair on their feet short, look into booties to protect their feet, or slather them up with Crisco to keep the snow and ice from sticking to their hair.

Hypothermia and frostbite Prolonged exposure to the extreme cold can be life threatening.  If your dog has a thin coat, consider getting a jacket or sweater for those cold days.  Take precaution with young and old dogs in cold weather.

Indoors hazards:

Christmas trees, ornaments and tinsel - Make sure your Christmas tree is well anchored so it cannot be pulled over by a climbing cat or rambunctious dog.  Keep the power cords protected from cord chewing pets.  Hang ornaments that resemble toys out of reach.  Avoid loose tinsel or ribbon that could be eaten.

Holly, Mistletoe and Poinsettia These three common holiday plants can be toxic to pets.  Dogs or cats have to eat a significant amount of these not very tasty plants to get sick.  To be on the safe side, keep them out of reach from your plant-eating pets.

Chocolate and raisins - Chocolate is toxic to dogs, however the size of the dog and strength of the chocolate determine whether or not it will cause a problem.  For example dark chocolate is more likely to be toxic then milk chocolate.  Either way, if you think your dog has eaten chocolate call your veterinarian for advice. Raisins can be toxic to dogs and cause acute kidney failure.  Keep it all out of reach.

I hope you and your family have a cozy, safe winter!


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