The chemical compound in antifreeze that is responsible for toxicity in pets is known as ethylene glycol, an odorless but sweet tasting liquid that is commonly used in most households, especially during the cold winter months. The most common way that pets accidentally consume antifreeze is from windshield de-icing fluid and hydraulic brake fluid. Ethylene glycol has a very small safety margin, even a small amount that has been spilt onto the ground (as little as 1 teaspoon for cats and 1 tablespoon for dogs!) is enough to cause severe toxicity and potentially fatal side effects if licked up by your pet. Ingestion may cause irreversible acute damage to the kidneys if not treated right away. If you suspect the ingestion of antifreeze please contact a veterinarian immediately as treating the toxin exposure early is imperative to the prognosis of your pet. Some early symptoms of ethylene glycol toxicity strongly resemble alcohol poisoning; signs of drooling, incoordination, vomiting and seizures are all early warning signs that your pet may have ingested this toxic substance. Please be wary of where this substance is kept in your garage and or house, make sure that it is located in a safe place away from pets and children to prevent accidental spills and ingestion.
Rodenticides are commonly used during the winter months to kill mice and other small rodents that are considered a nuisance. A frequently used rodenticide is Warfarin. Warfarin rodenticide falls under a category of drugs known as anticoagulants. Once an oral anticoagulant is ingested it prevents the body from being able to properly utilize vitamin K, which is essential for the activation of clotting factors within the blood. Without vitamin K, the blood cannot clot and internal hemorrhaging (bleeding) will occur secondary to this and fatality is probable if not treated promptly. Many pets will have a good prognosis if treatment is rapidly initiated. The first symptoms of rodenticide poisoning are delayed and will occur approximately 2-5 days after ingestion. The first symptoms displayed frequently involve the respiratory system; the pet may present with difficulty breathing, exercise intolerance and/or frequent coughing (with or without blood). Other clinical signs include lethargy, pale gums, swellings under the skin, or bleeding from the nose, mouth, reproductive tract, or rectum. Gastrointestinal signs may also be noted, bloody diarrhea, black tarry stools, and vomiting blood can also occur after ingestion. If treatment is not provided imminently the prognosis for survival decreases greatly. Please contact a veterinarian immediately if you notice any of these symptoms OR are concerned that your pet may have ingested rodenticide.
Frostbite is an injury to the skin and underlying tissues caused by direct exposure to cold temperatures below 0 degrees Celsius for a prolonged period of time. After extended exposure to these frigid temperatures the body will utilize its self-preserving mechanisms which causes the blood vessels to constrict and direct blood towards the core organs of the body and away from the extremities such as the ears, nose, tail and limbs; this may lead to hypothermia which could be fatal to your pet if not treated promptly. Dogs are most commonly presented for the treatment of frostbite and some are more susceptible to developing frostbite than others – including puppies, small breeds, short-hair breeds and senior canines. Although cats can be at risk too! Some common signs of frostbite may include discoloration of the body part affected (pale, blue/grey), blistering of the skin, excessive licking of the area, swelling and/or bruising of the area, or general coldness of the area exposed. Your pet may also react in a painful manner when the affected area is touched or he/she may begin to favour a certain limb if the paw pad is affected. If treatment is not pursued in a timely manner the affected tissue may become necrotic and slough off or require amputation in severe cases. If you suspect that your pet may have frostbite the best thing to do is to seek medical attention immediately. In the meantime, the best thing to do is to move him or her to a warm, dry area and wrap them in warm towels or blankets. Warm water compresses may also be applied to the affected area, although make sure that it is not too hot as this may cause more damage to the tissues. Do not apply direct heat to the animal such as using a heating pad against the body or a hot hair dryer. Salt and ice are another irritant to the paw pads of your pet when walking outdoors and could cause severe burns – always make sure to wipe off their paws when coming back inside and avoid walking in heavily salted/iced areas if possible.
The good news is that frostbite is completely preventable! To avoid prolonged exposure to the cold you may want to take your pooch out for shorter more frequent walks during the winter months, avoid bodies of water, wipe the paws and body off when arriving back inside, use dog coats/sweaters, dog booties or invest in sending him/her to and indoor daycare facility.
Moving Vehicles and Traffic:
Vehicular accidents involving pets are very common during the winter months for both canines and felines. For canines it is very important to always have him/her on a secure leash when going outside and to wear reflective gear either on yourself and/or your pet to ensure that other vehicles can see you and that they do not escape loose. Pets may also become startled and run away. Microchipping, using a reflective collar and having accurate pet ID tags on the collar are the best ways to increase your chances of reuniting with your beloved pet if an incident like this were to occur. Stray and outdoor cats will also seek warmth, shelter and a place to sleep during the winter months. Always be wary to check underneath your car and underneath the hood to see if there is any evidence that a feline may be residing within or under your vehicle before driving as it is an ideal spot for them to nap. Once the engine has started, severe injuries and or death may occur. If your pet has been involved in a road traffic accident please seek veterinary care immediately!
If your pet has come into contact with any toxic substance, please contact the clinic (519-893-8937) or the Pet Poison Hotline (1-855-764-7661).
Always feel free to reach out to us here at Close Veterinary Clinic if you have any questions or concerns regarding these or any other potential issues your pet may be having. We are always more than happy to assist you and provide the best care possible to your companions! Stay safe and have a wonderful winter!