Fall and Winter Pet Hazards

Advice on keeping your pet safe when the temperature drops!

Question: Are there any particular pet hazards I can try to avoid during the fall and winter?
Veterinarians deal with serious life-threatening injuries every day in their practices. Many of these accidental injuries could easily be avoided if we all used an ounce of prevention. Some of the frequent fall and winter "accidents" we see at our clinic include the following:

1. One autumn activity is to jump in the pickup truck for a quick trip and let your dog ride in the back. No one purposely puts their pet in danger, but anyone who allows their pet to ride in the back of the pickup sets themselves up for disaster. Jumping or being thrown from a moving vehicle nearly always results in serious injuries and, at times, death. An animal who is tethered doesn't usually fare much better because the tie-down rope is generally attached to their neck and they take the full impact of the trauma on an area very susceptible to injury. To avoid any injuries, please keep your pet either in the cab or in a kennel secured to the box as close to the cab as possible.

2. As people begin to winterize their vehicle, we start to see a lot of antifreeze poisoning. Both dogs and cats like the taste of this toxic substance and the results of ingestion are usually deadly. It takes very little antifreeze to be lethal for your pets. There is a nontoxic form of antifreeze, and I encourage all pet owners to buy and use it in their vehicles and boats. Nearly all of us have heard about antifreeze toxicity in the past, but we still see several cases a year at our clinic.

3. As the weather starts to get colder, people in urban areas begin to have furry little visitors try to move in with them. Out comes the "mouse bait." Be very careful with these poisons as accidental pet ingestion is disastrous. The ingredients have become much more deadly and longer acting and the packaging has become more attractive to pets. Consider using one of the various mouse traps or ultrasonic devices available on the market.

4. And finally, in the fall and winter months, we also have to treat a lot of fan belt injuries. To keep warm, cats will crawl into the engine compartment of a vehicle and are injured when the engine starts before they can exit. If you leave our car outside or in a garage where cats might be, remember to beep your horn and wait five to ten seconds before starting your engine. The kitty you save may be your own or a neighbor's pet seeking a temporary warming house.