WINTER AND HOLIDAY HEALTH HAZARDS FOR ANIMALS
Take Precautions to Protect Pets and Animals from Frigid Temperatures Says
The Humane Society of the United States
The Humane Society of the United States is urging pet owners to
take a few common sense precautions to safe guard their pets against
bitter cold temperatures.
Winter weather temperatures falling below 32° can pose a serious
risk to family pets, homeless animals, and trapped wildlife.
Extremely cold weather can be particularly hazardous for pets.
also ask our residents who trap stray and wild animals to stop
trapping on days when the temperature is below freezing.
Despite their “fur” coats, domesticated animals like cats and
dogs depend on humans for protection from elements such as freezing
temperatures. The HSUS is offering the following suggestions to help
keep all pets safe through the cold winter months.
- Don't leave pets outdoors when the temperature drops below
freezing. Dogs need outdoor exercise but take care not to keep
them out for lengthy periods during very cold weather.
Short-coated dogs may feel more comfortable wearing a sweater
during walks. Dogs and cats are safer indoors in all sorts of
weather. Animals should never be left outdoors unattended as
they risk being stolen or otherwise being harmed.
- Signs of hypothermia include: weak pulse, dilated pupils,
decreased heart rate, extreme shivering, pale or blue mucous
membranes, body temperature below 95 degrees, stupor and
unconsciousness. Consequences of extreme hypothermia may include
neurological problems including coma, heart problems and kidney
failure. Check with your veterinarian for more information.
- Wind-chill can threaten a pet's life, no matter what the
temperature. Outdoor dogs must be protected by a dry, draft-free
doghouse that is large enough to allow the dog to sit and lie
down comfortably, but small enough to hold in his/her body heat.
The floor should be raised a few inches off the ground and
covered with loose, insulating material such as straw or
shredded newspaper. Material should be changed regularly to
ensure it stays dry. The house should be turned to face away
from the wind, and the doorway should be covered with a flap of
heavy waterproof fabric or heavy plastic.
- Pets spending a lot of time outdoors need more food in the
winter. Keeping warm depletes energy. Routinely check your pet's
water dish to make certain the water is fresh and not frozen.
Use plastic food and water bowls rather than metal; when the
temperature is low, your pet's tongue can stick and freeze to
- Warm car engines are dangerous for cats and small wildlife.
Parked cars attract small animals who may crawl up under the
hood looking for warmth. To avoid injuring any hidden animals,
bang on your car's hood to scare them away before starting your
- De-icing chemicals are hazardous. The salt and other
chemicals used to melt snow and ice can irritate the pads of
your pet's feet. Wipe the feet with a damp towel every time
after coming in from outdoors – even if you don’t see salt on
Learn more at the ASPCA website
With the arrival of the winter months and holiday
season there are additional health hazards which are of concern for
animals. A few of these health risks could be brought into the home
inadvertently thereby increasing your pets’ possibility to exposure.
The following are some important tips to help you and your pet enjoy
- Antifreeze - This mixture contains ethylene glycol, a
product that can cause lethal kidney failure if ingested. Antifreeze
has a sweet taste that attracts animals and can be toxic in small
doses. An antidote is available but early recognition of ingestion
and immediate treatment by a veterinarian is imperative for the
survival of your pet. Better yet, use antifreeze-coolant made with
propylene glycol; if swallowed in small amounts, it will not hurt
pets, wildlife, or people.
- Baking Chocolate – This form of chocolate contains a
higher concentration of the stimulant theobromine than regular
chocolate. Because dogs and cats lack the enzyme needed to break
down this ingredient, just one ounce of baking chocolate can be
fatal to a small dog or cat.
- Mistletoe – The berry of this plant is the most toxic
component, especially if chewed instead of swallowed whole. If
ingested in sufficient quantities, it can cause gastrointestinal and
- Poinsettia – Whether or not this plant is toxic has been
debated for years. The most recent findings are that it contains no
toxic chemical. However, as with any item that your pet is not
accustomed to eating, it can cause diarrhea and vomiting. Animals
tend to be attracted to poinsettias, so it is a good practice to
keep this plant out of your pets’ reach.
- Christmas cactus – This plant is nontoxic but can cause
your pet to have diarrhea and vomiting if consumed.
- Tinsel – Your pet may be particularly attracted to playing
with tinsel or other string-type decorations. If ingested, it can
cause intestinal blockage. If your pet remains indoors it would be
prudent to avoid using tinsel or other string-type decorations. It
is also advisable to place breakable ornaments at the top of your
Christmas tree or invest in shatterproof ornaments.
- Glow Jewelry – The chemical contained in glow-in-the-dark
jewelry may have the potential to cause death as a result of
respiratory distress. Animals that have bitten into the jewelry may
exhibit heavy salivation, hyperactivity and aggressive behavior.
- Cold Weather – Animals in Texas are not acclimated to cold
weather and should be provided with adequate protection and shelter
from the direct effect of wind, rain, or snow.
Learn more at the ASPCA website
If you know or suspect that your pet has ingested
any of the above items, immediately consult a veterinarian, animal
emergency clinic, or poison control center. The ASPCA National Animal
Poison Control Center can be reached at 1-888-426-4435. The ASPCA
Animal Poison Control Center is a unique, emergency hotline providing
24-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week telephone assistance to veterinarians and
animal owners. The Center's hotline veterinarians can quickly answer
questions about toxic substances found in our everyday surroundings
that can be dangerous to animals. There is a
consultation fee paid by the
animal owner, veterinarian or product manufacturer.