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Winter Hazards and Concerns

Nov 27, 2018 | Cats, Dogs, Pet Care, Pet Safety

Christmas / Holiday Season


Tinsel & ribbon – While they may seem like a fun object to play with for your pet, they have the potential to act as a foreign body. They may get stuck in their gastrointestinal tract and cause tissue damage that requires surgery.

Lights – Electrocution is a possible outcome if you have a pet that enjoys chewing objects that they should not. You should monitor your pets at all times around plugged in lights and unplug them if you are not present.

Christmas trees – Ingestion of parts of an artificial tree can cause gastrointestinal upset. Also, ensure that your tree is stable in its stand so that it is not at risk of tipping over onto your pet.


Holly & mistletoe – The berries of both of these decorative plants can result in mild to moderate toxicity. When ingested by your dog or cat, they can result in gastrointestinal upset. Signs may include vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, and abdominal pain. In large amounts, mistletoe may even cause seizures and death. These plants should be kept out of your pets’ reach for their safety.

Poinsettia – These festive plants can result in mild toxicity. Signs may include vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, and eye and/or skin irritation. Poinsettias are not as toxic as hollies and mistletoes but, if you have an extremely curious pet, it is best practice to keep plants out of their reach.

Human Foods

The same foods that are a concern around Thanksgiving are also a concern during the Christmas season. These ingredients may be toxic or they can cause digestive problems.

Meat Drippings & Nuts – Excess fatty food consumption carries a risk of causing pancreatitis. This is a painful inflammation of one of the organs in the abdomen. Symptoms may include vomiting, diarrhea, anorexia and abdominal pain.

Grapes, Raisins & Currents – Ingestion may result in kidney damage/failure. Toxicity is not dose dependent, and even the smallest amount ingested can result in clinical signs. Signs may include anorexia, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy and dehydration.

Bones – Cooked bones have the potential to splinter and cause gastrointestinal damage. They may also cause your pet to choke.

Garlic & Onions – Poisoning results in red blood cell damage and gastroenteritis. Signs may include vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain.

Chocolate – Methylxanthines are not broken down quickly enough by pets, so they reach toxic levels in the body which can lead to vomiting/diarrhea, seizures and even death.



Freezing Temperatures

When we take our dogs out for their daily walks in the winter, we put on our boots, coat, gloves and hat to brace the freezing temperatures. Similar precautions should be taken for our dogs when they go outside. In order to keep your pet warm and safe from potential frost bite, they should be taken on shorter walks just to get some exercise and to go to the washroom. Also, sweaters and booties are an option to keep them more comfortable and to protect their paws.

Chemical Poisoning

Antifreeze – Antifreeze is one of the most common chemicals used during winter and its sweet taste makes it appealing to pets. The toxic component of antifreeze is ethylene glycol and immediate treatment is necessary due to severe/fatal toxicity. As little as one teaspoon can be fatal to cats. Clinical signs, within 12 hours of ingestion, may include drooling, vomiting, seizing, excessive thirst and a drunken appearance. Clinical signs are known to disappear following 12 hours of ingestion as the chemicals are altered in the animals’ body but, you should still seek treatment as their condition will continue to worsen. Antifreeze should always be stored away and spills should be cleaned immediately.

Rodenticides – Pests, such as mice, tend to migrate indoors once temperatures begin decreasing outdoors. This leads people to place rodenticide products throughout their homes. Rodenticide products contain many different ingredients so, if your pet consumes one of these products, it is important to identify the specific product and/or main chemical. This will allow the veterinarian to accurately determine a treatment plan. Clinical signs of rodenticide toxicity will depend on the type of chemical consumed, but may include incoordination, seizures and eventually death.


One way cars may be a hazard in the wintertime is when it comes to visibility. Drivers and owners should be cautious when visibility is poor to avoid accidentally being hit by a car. Also, drivers should be aware that cats are drawn to warm, heated cars. If you are arriving at a destination and leaving soon after, your car will still be warm and it is possible that a cat has taken refuge underneath.

If your pet has come into contact with any hazards, please contact the clinic (519-893-8937) or the Pet Poison Hotline (1-855-764-7661).