Antifreeze Poisoning

Antifreeze and windshield washer fluids contain a product called ethylene glycol. Ethylene glycol is sweet and has a taste that is attractive to both dogs and cats. Just a small amount of antifreeze consumed by a pet can cause irreversible kidney damage, leading to coma and death.

Animals are often poisoned by licking up spills in the garage, on the driveway, or on the street. Pets living in urban or suburban areas seem to be more exposed to this poison.

Ingestion of ethylene glycol causes central nervous system depression. Animals appear to be disoriented and in a stupor. Eventually a pet becomes comatose and unresponsive. Death results from kidney failure.

If you suspect that your pet consumed even the smallest amount of antifreeze, don’t wait for symptoms to appear. This is an emergency and you should rush your pet to a veterinary hospital. If it is not possible to obtain immediate veterinary care, induce vomiting and administer activated charcoal. This will reduce the amount of toxin that your pet’s body absorbs.

A non-toxic antifreeze is now available for use in car radiators. The next time you have your car radiator flushed, ask the mechanic to replace the old antifreeze with new non-toxic type.

Fan Belt Injuries in Cats

On a recent visit, Debby’s sister tried to talk her into adopting a kitten. Debby loves animals, but didn’t really need another cat, and she had her sales resistance at a high level. She left for the drive back to Clarkston without a new kitten… At least she thought.

She parked in her driveway, shut off the motor, and walked around to the front of the truck. Then she heard a faint “meow” coming from under the hood. One of the kittens had stowed away and was now wedged tightly into a spot on top of the front axle. The kitten rode there all the way home and appeared none the worse for it. But she couldn’t liberate the kitten and the kitten couldn’t liberate herself.

Everybody knows what to do in these situations. You call the fire department, of course. I don’t know how the fire department originally got into the business of rescuing cats. I don’t think they rescue dogs, or any other animals. But they came to the rescue this time, as they often do. They jacked up the front of Debby’s truck, and managed to safely retrieve the kitten. Debby suggested that the fireman hero name the cat. He called it “Axel” of course. When Debby told her sister about Axel, she said she had found two other kittens under the hood of one of their cars after Debby left.

This is the time of year when cats are likely to seek cozy warm hiding places. Unfortunately, that often means they crawl into the engine compartment of a car or truck. When someone gets into the car, a hiding cat will usually stay put, instinctively hoping that by being still and quiet he or she will go unnoticed. When the engine starts the sudden vibration and roar of noise often causes the cat to jump or fall into the fan or fan belt and pulleys. The results are often disastrous for the cat, causing trauma, lacerations and on occasion death.

Axel was exceptionally lucky. He was somewhat traumatized, hardly scratched, and certainly alive.

This type of situation is not an easy thing to prevent. Making noise by banging on the hood or honking the horn is worth a try but it may just make a hiding cat hunker down even more. To be certain, you have to open the hood and take a good look around the engine compartment – and on the front axle! That’s just the thing you want to do every morning before you go to work, especially when you’re having a bad hair day to start with, you’re running late, and it’s cold or drizzling outside.

Each morning, before starting your car, have some consideration for the cat that may be under the hood.

Feeding and Watering Your Pet During the Cold Months

The cold months present a problem for outdoor dogs. During the winter, outdoor pets are particularly susceptible to dehydration. Since small bowls of water freeze quickly, twice-a-day watering is not sufficient. We recommend a large, deep, plastic bowl, since a large deep bowl of water freezes more slowly than a small, shallow one. A plastic bowl is more efficient than a metal one. Metal has a tendency to loose heat more quickly. In subzero temperatures or situations where the water cannot be changed several times a day, a livestock water bucket heater is useful.

A outdoor pet’s food ration should be increased during the cold weather. Generating internal body heat requires energy. Animals get this energy from the food. A good quality, easily digestible pet food is extremely important for your pet during the weather season. Before increasing the quantity of food, make sure that your pet is not overweight.

Winter Paw Care

During the winter months, dogs’ paws are often swollen and irritated. Examination of the interdigital (between the toes) area reveals red, inflamed skin. This condition is often very painful, causing the dog to walk with a limp.

This problem is generally seen in small breed dogs. Often the first symptom is an incessant licking of the paws. The dog will usually try to lick between the toes. Your dog may even start biting or chewing this area. A typically sedate, nonassertive animal will sometimes nip or show signs of aggression if the paw is manipulated.

These problems can be reduced or eliminated if you are willing to spend a few minutes each day grooming your dog. Start with the fur between your dog’s toes and pads. Keep this fur trimmed and short. If the fur is allowed to grow long, snow sticks to it, forming ice balls. These ice balls irritate the skin, causing irritation and inflammation.

Nail care is also important. In the winter months, trim your dog’s nails on a regular basis. Not only do long nails irritate a dog’s toes, they force him to walk on the backs of the paws, splaying his toes. Creating more space between the toes will allow more snow to cling to the fur.

Cracked, sore pads are also a wintertime problem. Pads can become so cracked that erosions begin to form. The cracked, eroded pads are painful and can also cause lameness. This condition can occur in any breed but is often seen in larger dogs. Salt used for deicing roads and sidewalks is often the cause. The salt dries the dog’s pads and causes them to crack. To prevent this condition, soak or wash your dog’s paws (with warm water) when he returns home from the cold. We also advise drying them thoroughly.

Doghouse Recommendations

Most dogs can live outdoors, even during the winter months. Some breeds do not tolerate the cold very well and should not live outdoors. (Whippets, Italian Greyhounds, chihuahua, etc.) These dogs cannot tolerate the cold for long periods of time and develop hypothermia very quickly. Large dogs living outdoors should have a cozy, insulated dog house. The house should not be too large, just large enough for your dog to stand up and turn around. A dog house that is too large will lose heat quickly. The house can be homemade; however, new insulated plastic models are available and reasonable in price.

The dog house should be located in a sheltered, well-protected area. The house should have a southern or eastern exposure, in order to take advantage of the sun’s warmth. The ground should be slightly elevated to prevent moisture accumulation and allow for water runoff. Placing the doghouse on an elevated platform will keep it off the frozen ground.

The bedding material inside the doghouse should be fresh straw or hay. Salt marsh hay seems to be the best. Hay and straw can be purchased at most farm supply stores, stables, or from local farmers. Before purchasing hay or straw, smell it for freshness. Avoid any hay that smells mildewy or strong. Generously spread five to six inches of the hay or straw over the doghouse platform. Replace the hay frequently or as needed. Damp or mildewy hay should not be allowed to accumulate in the house.

Pet Care Tips for the Winter

Winter is a difficult time for pets. Outdoor animals need extra care in order to cope with the cold weather. Special attention should also be paid to older animals, young puppies and animals with short coats.

It is important for all animals to be properly nourished during the winter months. Outdoor animals require about 25 percent more food during the winter months than during warmer months. The increase in food is necessary to generate enough heat for the body to stay warm. Indoor animals often require less food since exercise is generally limited.

Pets require adequate shelter during the cold weather. Outdoor dogs should have an insulated dog house that is protected from the wind. The dog house should not be too large (the heat that the dog generates is used to keep him or her warm) and the opening should face south or southeast. A plastic flap should cover the entrance, especially during windy days. Straw, hay or blankets make excellent bedding material.

Cats generally do not find dog houses very appealing. An small entrance flap (cat door) to the basement of the house, or to the garage, will provide an access to shelter during the cold weather.

Outdoor animals cannot eat snow for a source of water. Clean, fresh water must be provided several times each day. A water heater is a practical solution, however it must be safe and installed properly.

During the cold weather, cats often take shelter under the hood of cars. A warm engine is a comfortable area for a cat to rest. When the car is started, the cat risks severe injuries from the fan belt or blades. Before starting a car, knock on the hood or raise it in order to conduct a safety check.

Paws should be checked regularly during the winter months. Snow and ice should be removed from the fur located between the toes. Damp paws should be thoroughly dried. Moisture that accumulates between the toes can cause sores. Deicing chemicals and salt are common irritants. If these products are commonly used, animals paws should be bathed regularly.

Antifreeze is extremely toxic if ingested by animals. The sweet taste is often appealing to cats and dogs. Antifreeze that is spilled should be cleaned up immediately.

Pets often experience dry skin during the winter months. Lack of humidity tends to dry the skin. Frequent grooming (brushing) helps stimulate the production of oil from the skin glands.

Occasionally an animal is accidently left outdoors for an extended period of time. As a result, frostbite may occur. The most common areas for frostbite are the tips of the ears, paw pads, and the tip of the tail. The frostbite area should be bathed in warm water (not hot) then the animal should be taken to a veterinary hospital.

Kindness is the best care for animals during the winter months. If the temperature drops below 15 degrees F., the pet should be moved indoors. If an animal is shivering or refuses to play, this generally means that he or she is too cold. This animal should be brought indoors.

Taking Your Dog on Vacation

Whether you leave Rover home or bring him on vacation, plans for your trip should be made well in advance.

If Rover is going on vacation, you must consider his personality. If you are not sure about his personality, or if he behaves differently with you than with other people, ask a friend (or several) to give an objective opinion. Here are some questions to consider:

Is your pet friendly?

Is he (she) over-friendly? Sometimes a large over-friendly dog appears aggressive and scares people.

Does your dog jump up on people? If so, he (she) can easily knock down and injure a small child.

Is Rover extremely territorial? If you are planning a camping trip, remember that campsites are located close to each other. There are no walls or fences that separate adjacent campsites.

Does your dog bark when he (she) hears strange noises? When away from home, many new noises are considered “strange” noises. Barking is extremely annoying to neighbors.

Does Rover obey your commands? Does he wander from home? Spending an entire day (or several days) chasing after Rover is no fun.


If you would like to bring Rover on vacation, planning is necessary.

Rover must be current on all vaccinations, including Rabies. If you do not have vaccination certificates, call your regular veterinarian and request copies. If you are traveling to another state, you may want to call your state veterinarian’s office. Your state veterinarian may provide you with additional information or requirements that are necessary for traveling with Rover.

Make sure you have an adequate supply of heartworm medication as well as a supply of any other medication that Rover is taking. If Rover is taking prescription medication, carry a copy of the prescription. A copy of his (her) medical record may be useful as well.

A strong collar (and leash) with identification tags is necessary. The tags must have an address and phone number. Since you are on vacation, the phone number should be a friend’s number or the phone number of your veterinary hospital. A second collar with an additional set is useful if the original is lost.

Rover’s picture should be in your wallet. A current photo of your dog comes in handy if he/she gets lost.

A travel crate or kennel (well ventilated) is necessary.

A large bag of Rover’s food may be easier to purchase at home than on the road. If he (she) is eating a special or prescription diet, you may have a difficult time purchasing this particular brand away from your home.


Motels, inns, and campsites must be called in advance. Many accept pets, some welcome pets, and most refuse pets. Some motels, Inns, and campsites have limited space for families with pets. These are often booked before tourist season even begins. Make these reservations early!

Check with your local American Automobile Association for motels, inns and campgrounds that accept pets. The Internet is an excellent method for finding lodging as well.

There are many books and pamphlets entitled Traveling with your pet. An inexpensive and useful publication can be purchased from Quaker Oats. It is available for $1.50 from Quaker Oats Publishers, Professional Services, P.O. Box 877, Young America, MN, 55399.

Insecticide Poisoning

The most common cause of poisoning in dogs and cats is from insecticides. Presently there are more than 25,000 insecticides registered for use in the United States. Insecticides used to control fleas on pets cause the majority of poisonings.

Some animals are overly sensitive to flea products (insecticides used to control fleas) and in other instances the pet owner does not use these products according to instructions. Insecticides can be absorbed through the skin, inhaled through the lungs, or ingested. Cats often ingest topical flea products during grooming.

Overstimulation of the nervous system is the most common symptom of insecticide poisoning. Early symptoms include excessive salivation, uneasiness and a change in personality. As the condition progresses, muscle tremors, change in pupil size (contracted pupils), vomiting and diarrhea occurs. Eventually, if poisoning is severe, stiffness, paralysis, and seizures are common. Death occurs from cardiovascular and respiratory failure. Clinical symptoms generally progress rapidly and persist for days and even weeks.

Before using any insecticides on your pet (flea products in particular) talk to your veterinarian for advice. Most veterinary hospitals sell flea products that are safe, reliable, and effective.

Insecticide poisoning is a medical emergency and immediate veterinary care is required. If insecticide poisoning is suspected, the animal should be rushed to a veterinary hospital or animal emergency center.

Biology of the Cat and Dog Flea

Fleas are magical creatures that have been annoying animals for over 60 million years. With their flattened bodies and three pairs of powerful legs, they are magnificently adapted for jumping. The average flea is capable of jumping more than 100 times its own height. It is extremely easy for a flea to jump from one pet to another.

Ctenocephalides felis, the cat flea, is the most common flea found on dogs and cats. Other fleas may parasitize dogs and cats; however, the cat flea is the predominant skin parasite in the United States.

There are four stages to the life cycle of the flea: adult, egg, larva, and pupa. The adult flea spends most of its time on the host (dog or cat). Development of the egg, larva, and pupa takes place in the environment (off the pet). In order for flea control to be effective, the environment as well as the pet must be treated.

Adult fleas are blood suckers. In order to reach sexual maturity, reproduce and lay eggs, immature adult fleas require blood from their host. When on the host, these skin parasites feed daily or every other day. Male fleas only require a minimum amount of blood, however females require much more. The life span of the adult flea ranges from six to 12 months. Length of survival depends upon temperature and humidity. The adult and larval stages do not survive well in extreme temperature conditions. The ideal temperature is 65-80 degrees F with 75 to 85 percent humidity.

While on the host, the adult female flea lays eggs. She is capable of laying 30-60 eggs per day. Some of the eggs remain on the dog or cat; however, most fall into the environment. The eggs are often located in carpets, sofas, chairs with fabric upholstery, animal beds, and kennels. Flea eggs are found in areas where pets spends most of their time.

Like chicken eggs, flea eggs must incubate. Incubation time is variable, depending upon the temperature and humidity. Under favorable conditions, this period is two to six days. After incubation, the larva emerges from the egg. The flea larva resembles a microscopic-size worm and undergoes a series of changes. In a few weeks, the larva spins a small cocoon and transforms into a pupa. The pupal stage is extremely resistant and can survive for up to two years in unfavorable conditions. This must be taken into consideration when treating an area for fleas!

The adult flea emerges from the cocoon, jumps on a cat or dog, and the cycle begins again. Under ideal conditions, the entire cycle may take only 18 days to complete.

In the warmer, more humid areas of the United States, the flea cycle is short. With adult fleas emerging every three weeks, pets are infested year-round. In the northern parts of the country, there is a reprieve during the winter months. During the cold weather, pupae remain dormant. By late spring, when the temperature and humidity increase significantly, large numbers of pupae emerge and the flea problem begins again.

Ctenocephalides felis serves as the intermediate host for the dog and cat tapeworm. Pets often ingest fleas during grooming. The tapeworm is released inside the digestive tract of the pet where it attaches to the lining of the intestine.

Lawns, Toxic Plants and Outdoor Chemicals

Herbicides (weed killers), insecticides, rodent poison, and slug and snail bait are some of the toxic chemicals used outdoors that may be harmful to your pet. Each summer, insecticides and herbicides poison thousands of pets. When using these chemicals, follow the manufacturer’s directions carefully. Make sure that all receptacles and containers are thoroughly washed and out of reach of your pet. Runoff or puddles created from spraying these products should be thoroughly diluted. Do not allow pets in the yard while spraying these products and keep them out of the yard for 3-4 days afterwards. Often, pets walk on surfaces covered with herbicides and become intoxicated after cleaning or licking their paws.

Many plants are toxic to pets. These plants must be ingested in order to cause poisoning. Included below is a partial list of common poisonous plants. These plants are listed in alphabetical order.

Braken Fern
Bleeding Heart
Castor Bean
Crown of Thorns
Dutchman’s Breeches
English Holly
English Ivy
Horse Chestnut
Jack in the Pulpit
Jerusalem Cherry
Poison Ivy
Red Oak
Star of Bethlehem
White Snake Root
Yellow Jasmine

Poison oak and poison ivy can cause a skin irritation on your pet. More often though, the problem is when your pet passes it to you. Their fur becomes a source of the poison oak or poison ivy. You develop symptoms after contact with your pet.