Wintertime Hazards in Pets

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Wintertime Hazards in Pets

It’s ski season here in the Vail Valley. It’s that time of year when we have a huge influx of tourists visiting our lovely county, along with their pets! It is not so uncommon to receive a weekend emergency call from a nervous visiting pet owner about various hazards their pets may have been exposed to during their visit. As your Vail Valley On call veterinarian I have seen the following pet emergencies most commonly.

Marijuana Toxicity:It’s 3 am and the first call comes in. A pet is very groggy, falling over and “drunk.” Most commonly this call comes in when  the pet has been exposed to marijuana. With legalization of Marijuana in many states, Pet poison helpline has seen a 448% increase in the number of toxicity cases in pets. Animals in our Vail Valley can be exposed to marijuana in many ways. They can ingest edibles such as brownies, ingest Marijuana being used by a not so careful owner who has left it out and available to the pet, or by second hand smoke. Signs of toxicity include dilated eyes, dazed mentation, difficulty standing and/or walking, falling over, dribbling urine, tremors, and potentially coma. Although there is no antidote, your emergency on call veterinarian can provide steps to induce vomiting in early exposure, administer agents to decrease absorbption, and provide supportive care thru fluid therapy and hospitalization.

Rodenticide toxicity:  It’s Sunday afternoon and a client arrives to their short term rental property and immediately their pet finds a chunk of a green substance in a box in the garage as they unload their car. An unknowning pet owner will not immediately assume this is a rodenticide left behind by the home owner to keep rodent population down, but rodenticides such as D-con though, can lead to a pet’s death. If you find any rodenticides in your place of residence, immediately dispose of it. If your pet has been exposed, contact the emergency on call veterinarian immediately to induce vomiting , and obtain the appropriate antidote. While in the short time, pets will not exhibit any abnormal signalment, they will eventually succumb to the toxin within a short period of time.

Frost-Bite and Hypothermia:  It’s Monday am and an owner just arrived yesterday from Houston with their Chihuahua. They forgot to bring a little coat for their pet, or protective boots and decided to head to the trail for a hike in the snow. They were very unprepared for the extreme cold.The pet is now limping on the front paws, and the tips of the ears are looking unusual in color. What the owner did not know is that  when the pet gets cold, the body will pull blood from all the extremities to retain body heat, resulting in pet’s ears, tails and paws becoming damaged. Luckily, this pet was ok but we urge tourists to  try to keep your pet’s exposure time to a minimum and bring clothing and boots for your short haired furry friends.

Hand warmers:   Once again, it’s one of those 2 am calls. A large 85 pound dog was alone in the house while the tourists went into town and when they got home they discovered their package of hand warmers was opened and one was missing.  According to The Pet Poison helpline, hand warmers can contain iron , which if ingested can cause a variety of signs including lethargy and vomiting, diarrhea, and at higher doses cause more severe signs such as shock, tremors, as well as liver and cardiac side effects. Luckily this pet owner was able to induce vomiting quickly and the pet did not suffer any consequences, but please beware this could be you. If you think your pet ingested a hand warmer, contact the emergency on call veterinarian!

Anti-Freeze:  It’s Friday afternoon now and some folks have just arrived from New York. They  pull up next to an old car with a puddle of green substance underneath it. Their thirsty pet quickly escaped their grasp and began licking the sweet tasting, deadly substance. It is anti-Freeze. Fortunately, the owner was aware this is very toxic to the kidneys of pets and was able to bring the pet in immediately for the antidote, but many unknowing folks will let their pets off leash which can increase exposure to thing such as antifreeze in the winter months. Once again, seek immediate veterinary care should your pet become exposed to anti-freeze.


We encourage tourists to vacation with their pets here in our beautiful valley and we are blessed with so many pet-friendly hotels and resort rentals, but want to prepare them for the potential hazards they face and increase awareness to avoid emergency vet visits!

We look forward to seeing you!