Seasonal Pet Safety Tips

Dove Lewis
Each season poses different potential hazards to your pet. Here are some seasonal pet health tips compiled by DoveLewis Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Lee Herold, DVM, DACVECC, and staff veterinarian, Dr. Katherine Earl, DVM, to help keep your pet safe and healthy all throughout the year.

Winter:

Holiday Pet Hazards

The holidays present some unique hazards to pets. Exposure to these hazards can be avoidable with some careful planning and forethought. Decorating around the holidays consists of hanging lights and ornaments. Dogs and some cats are notorious for chewing on anything new and sometimes shiny things attract their attention. Electrical cords associated with holiday lights can cause electrical shock and burns if your pet chews through these. If your pet likes to chew on wiring, take precautions to keep your pets away from your holiday lights, or use electrical cord covers or organizers to keep the wires under wraps. Holiday tinsel can brighten up the Christmas tree, and ribbons are almost a universal part of gift wrapping. Cats and some dogs like to chew and swallow these long lengths of tinsel or ribbon. The tinsel and ribbon cannot be digested so it tends to bunch and can tie up the intestines causing an intestinal blockage. Most cats and dogs with intestinal blockage will need surgery to correct this. If you have a curious cat, or a mischievous dog that tends to like to eat ribbons or tinsel, it is advised to avoid decorating with tinsel or ribbon over the holidays. If you suspect that your dog or cat may have eaten ribbon, then they should be examined by your veterinarian.

The holidays are most often celebrated with sweet treats. It is important to keep chocolaty treats and sweets away from your pets. Chocolates, in addition to causing an upset stomach, contain caffeine and a toxin called theobromine. In dogs and cats, both caffeine and theobromine can cause high heart rates, high blood pressure, and rarely seizures. If we know a dog has eaten chocolate then treatment consists of inducing vomiting, medications to prevent absorption of the toxin in the chocolate, and sometimes a night in the hospital on IV fluids. It is better to avoid potential exposures to chocolate by keeping the treats out of reach or within a cabinet. If your pet gets into chocolate, it is recommended to have them checked out by a veterinarian.

The time of year for holiday and family gatherings can be stressful for pets that are shy, especially cats. Some cats are very social and love to greet your holiday guests; however, most cats tend to be shy, and need to have their own space to feel safe. With lots of company around the holidays, cats can become very anxious or risk injury if they are underfoot. For cats that are timid around strangers or noise, it is best to keep them in a room that is relatively quiet and where they can have access to hiding places and a litter box until the guests are gone.

News Year’s Fireworks

We humans celebrate the coming of the New Year with confetti and fireworks, but the loud and persistent crackle of fireworks can be alarming to some dogs and can spark fear behaviors. These behaviors range from mild and non-harmful behaviors to destructive behaviors. The mild and non-harmful behaviors include whining, keeping close to their owners for support and trying to seek hiding places. Other dogs that are extremely fearful of fireworks can get worked up enough to injure themselves or property. Here at DoveLewis we have examined dogs that have sustained severe lacerations after jumping through windows because they were so afraid of the firework noise. If your dog has mild, non-harmful behaviors the best thing for them is to be indoors in the quietest room in your house, and have you close by to reassure them until the festivities pass. If however, your pet demonstrates severe fearful or destructive behaviors, you may need to consult with your veterinarian about sedative medications to get them through the fireworks. Cats can also get scared of fireworks and loud noises but they usually find a good hiding spot and do not injure themselves.  Making sure your cat has some good hiding places available can be just enough to get them through the fireworks show.

Frostbite

Though we usually do not have very cold winters here in the Pacific Northwest, there is a rare and occasional snowstorm in which your dogs might encounter wet snow. You might also encounter snow banks if you and your dogs enjoy snowshoeing in the mountains. Wet snow can pack between the toes and paw pads of dogs during a hike. Dogs with longer fur between their toes are more susceptible to this. Packed snow between their toes can make dogs prone to frostbite between their toes that can cause skin irritation and damage. If you notice clumping of snow between your dog’s toes, bring them indoors and place their paws in warm water to slowly melt the snow. Do not try to cut away the snow clumps.  If your pet has long hair between his/her toes but still enjoys long winter hikes, you might try to prevent snow packing by rubbing petroleum jelly between their toes or buying them some trekking booties to protect their paws.

Wood Stove Safety

During the cooler winter months, many people are using wood stoves to heat their homes. If not properly vented, wood stoves can emit carbon monoxide a colorless, odorless toxic gas.  Both people and dogs can succumb to carbon monoxide toxicity with signs in dogs being nausea, lethargy, difficulty breathing and unconsciousness. To protect both your human family and your pet family, ensure that your wood stove is in good working order every winter season and have reliable carbon monoxide detectors in your home. Consider not using the wood stove when your pets are home alone and there is no human at home to tend to the fire or hear the carbon monoxide detector if it goes off.

Spring:

Easter Lilies

Most people may not know that Easter lilies are highly toxic to cats. Easter lilies and other members of the Lilium spp. plants including oriental lilies can cause kidney damage and kidney failure in cats. Unfortunately, we do not know what the toxic element in these plants is, but even chewing on one leaf, petal or licking the pollen has resulted in kidney failure in cats. Most cats tend to be plant chewers so if you have a cat, consider getting a bouquet to enjoy indoors that does not have lilies in it, or enjoy the Easter lily bouquet outside on the porch where your cat does not have access to it. If you think your cat has chewed or eaten any portion of the lily plant, please see your veterinarian.

Easter Decorative Grass

For curious cats Easter grass is an often overlooked hazard. The plastic Easter grass that lines Easter baskets can pose a hazard to cats because cats like to chew and swallow the Easter grass. The plastic Easter grass cannot be digested so it tends to bunch and can tie up the intestines causing an intestinal blockage. Most cats with intestinal blockage will need surgery to correct this. If you have cats in your home, be a bit wary about Easter grass and make sure your cat can’t get to it.

Easter Candy

The Easter holiday is usually accompanied by lots of different chocolate treats including solid chocolate Easter bunnies, chocolate Easter eggs, and many more. With all this chocolate around please remember to keep these treats away from your pets. Chocolates in addition to causing an upset stomach contain caffeine and a toxin called theobromine. In dogs and cats, both caffeine and theobromine can cause high heart rates, high blood pressure, and rarely seizures. If we know that a dog has eaten chocolate then treatment consists of inducing vomiting, medications to prevent absorption of the toxin in the chocolate, and sometimes a night in the hospital on IV fluids. It is better to avoid potential exposures to chocolate by keeping the treats out of reach or within a cabinet. If your pet gets into the Easter chocolate, it is recommended to have them checked out by a veterinarian.

Toxic Slug Bait

As spring nears, many of us start digging in the garden but inevitably we also have to deal with snails, those annual pests that can ruin a good perennial bed or our vegetable starts. Many people use snail baits to protect their gardens but remember that snail baits contain chemicals or toxins that can be harmful to your pet. Most snail baits contain the chemical metaldehyde that can cause severe tremors and seizures if eaten by your dog or cat. Other types of snail baits contain a chemical called iron phosphate and these are sometimes marketed as “pet safe”. However if the eaten in large enough quantities, even these “pet safe”, iron phosphate products can cause problems. Signs of iron toxicity include vomiting, diarrhea, liver disease, and anemia. To keep your pets safe ensure that you are spreading snail baits only in areas that are not accessible by your pets. Also make sure to store the container of snail bait out of reach of your pets. If you notice any abnormal signs like shaking, tremors, or nausea then seek veterinary care right away.

Summer:

Fireworks and other Fourth of July Hazards

Celebrating the birth of our nation comes with large fireworks shows and sometimes smaller backyard fireworks. Though spectacular to view, these fireworks can cause some loud bangs around the 4th of July. The bang of fireworks can spark some fear behaviors in dogs. These behaviors range from mild and non-harmful behaviors to destructive behaviors. The mild and non-harmful behaviors include whining, keeping close to their owners for support and trying to seek hiding places. Others dogs that are extremely fearful of fireworks can get worked up enough to injure themselves or property. Here at DoveLewis we have examined dogs that have sustained severe lacerations after jumping through a window because they were so afraid of the firework noise. If your dog has mild non-harmful behaviors, the best thing for them is to be indoors in the quietest room in your house, and have you close by to reassure them until the festivities pass. If however your pet demonstrates severe fearful or destructive behaviors you may need to consult with your veterinarian about sedative medications to get them through the 4th of July fireworks. Cats can also get scared of fireworks and loud noises but they usually find a good hiding spot and do not injure themselves.  Making sure your cat has some good hiding places available can be just enough to get them through the fireworks show.

Bite Wounds

As the weather gets warmer and the skies start to clear in the Pacific Northwest, we are out and about with our pets more often. This usually means meeting other like-minded dog owners and new dogs. However some dogs are not always friendly towards others and in the summer we at DoveLewis see a lot of dogs with bite injuries from other dogs. Bite wounds usually need stitches and antibiotics, but some bite wounds and dog attacks have resulted in severe and life-threatening injuries. To try to avoid these mishaps, if your dog is aggressive toward other dogs, please keep it on leash whenever you are out and about. If your dog is friendly, you should still be cautious when meeting other dogs and should always have control of your dogs when encountering a new dog. If your dog has been in a fight, please seek veterinary care right away.

Heat Related Injuries

With summer – even here in the Pacific Northwest – comes much needed sunshine and time outside for both us and our pets. One thing to remember during this time of year is the dangers of excessive heat exposure.  Exercising a dog on a hot summer day or leaving a pet in an enclosed area such as a car can result in disastrous consequences ranging from vomiting and diarrhea to collapse and death.  Always make sure your pet has access to water and shade and avoid excessive playing or exercise during the hottest parts of the day.  If your pet develops difficulty walking, constant panting, or collapse during the warm weather and you suspect heat exhaustion, then wet the fur with warm water and bring your pet immediately to a veterinarian.

Fall:

Halloween Candy

In preparation for costume parties and trick-or-treaters, the Halloween festivities are usually accompanied by sweet and chocolaty treats. During this time it is important to keep chocolate treats and sweets away from your pets. Chocolates, in addition to causing an upset stomach, contain caffeine and a toxin called theobromine. In dogs and cats, both the caffeine and theobromine can cause high heart rates, high blood pressure, and rarely seizures. If we know a dog has eaten chocolate then treatment can consist of inducing vomiting, giving medications to prevent absorption of the toxin contained in the chocolate, and sometimes a night in the hospital on IV fluids. It is better to avoid potential exposures to chocolate by keeping the treats out of reach or within a cabinet. If your pet gets into the Halloween candy, it is recommended to have them checked out by a veterinarian to start treatment.

Thanksgiving Holiday Pet Hazards

In this time of plentiful dinners and holiday goodies, it can be hard not to share with our furry household friends. However, it is important to remember that you should avoid feeding your cats and dogs Thanksgiving chocolate treats. Chocolates in addition to causing an upset stomach contain caffeine and a toxin called theobromine. In dogs and cats, both the caffeine and theobromine can cause high heart rates, high blood pressure, and rarely seizures. If we know a dog has eaten chocolate then treatment can consist of inducing vomiting, giving medications to prevent absorption of the toxin contained in the chocolate, and sometimes a night in the hospital on IV fluids. It is better to avoid potential exposures to chocolate by keeping the treats out of reach or within a cabinet. If your pet gets into the thanksgiving chocolate, it is recommended to have them checked out by a veterinarian.

During the Thanksgiving holiday, people often want to share their turkey dinners with their dogs. Most dogs would really enjoy sharing in the festivities but please keep a couple important points in mind. First, you want to avoid giving your dog sweet or fatty foods because this can sometimes cause diarrhea. Also, turkey bones or the turkey carcass should not be fed to dogs and cats. Poultry and turkey bones tend to shatter or sliver and these slivers can get stuck in the back of the throat or stomach. Finally, you should avoid feeding any side dishes that contain raw garlic or onions to your pets. Garlic and onions contain a toxin that can cause anemia in dogs and cats. If your pet does not have a sensitive stomach and you want to share some of the dinner festivities, consider giving them some lean cooked turkey meat and mashed potatoes, but avoid the fatty gravy topping. Vegetables (without lots of butter, garlic or onions) can also be a great treat.

The time of year for holiday and family gatherings can be stressful for pets that are shy, especially cats. Some cats are very social and love to greet your holiday guests; however, most cats tend to be shy, and need to have their own space to feel safe. With lots of company around the holidays, cats can become very anxious or risk injury if they are underfoot. For cats that are timid around strangers or noise, it is best to keep them in a room that is relatively quiet and where they can have access to hiding places and a litter box until the guests are gone.