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.