Pet Columns, Office of Public Engagement, College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Help Your Pet Avoid Autumn Hazards

Pet Column for the week of October 20, 1997

Office of Public Engagement
2001 S. Lincoln Ave.
Urbana, Illinois 61802
Phone: 217/333-2907
By Theresa A. Fuess, Ph.D.
Information Specialist

Fall is upon us. It is time to change the antifreeze, wage war on field mice in search of warm
quarters, stock up on Halloween candy, and plan the Thanksgiving menu. Pet owners
would be well advised to not assign any of these chores to their pets.

"There are several autumn hazards to pets, some potentially fatal," says Dr. Donald R.
Krawiec, veterinarian at the University of Illinois Veterinary Medicine Teaching Hospital.
"Knowing what these hazards are and taking simple precautions will keep your pet healthy
through the coming months." The following is a summary of Dr. Krawiec's

Antifreeze: Most radiator antifreeze/coolant contains ethylene glycol and is highly toxic. It
has a sweet taste and is readily consumed by children and animals. Five teaspoons can kill a
10-pound dog, less will kill a cat. It is very fast acting and results in kidney failure and death
in as little as four to eight hours. Newer products that contain propylene glycol are generally
considered safe. Store new antifreeze in its original container, out of reach of pets and
children. Keep the empty container or a record of the product used so that if your car leaks
and your pet finds it before you do, you can tell your veterinarian what was consumed.
Dispose of old antifreeze in a sealed container; don't hose it down the driveway. Always
have plenty of fresh water available for your pet. A thirsty pet may relieve its thirst with
antifreeze that a neighbor left out or hosed down the driveway. If you think your pet has
consumed antifreeze, call your veterinarian right away.

Rodenticides: Rodenticides that kill the rodents hoping to winter in your house will also kill
your pet. They cause severe bleeding, kidney failure, and death. There are no safe
rodenticides. Whether out of hunger, boredom, or curiosity, pets will consume these
products. If rodenticides are used in your home, put them in places inaccessible to pets and
children. Keep a record of the product used and in case of accidental poisoning, contact
your veterinarian immediately.

Chocolate: Chocolate is a favorite people-treat at Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas
but it is toxic to dogs, cats, and birds. The initial signs of chocolate poisoning are those of
stomach upset, vomiting, and diarrhea. If sufficient chocolate is consumed, an animal will
become restless and uncoordinated and will suffer heart failure and/or respiratory failure. As
little as one ounce of baking chocolate or eight ounces of milk chocolate can kill a
10-pound dog. Like other poisonings, chocolate poisoning requires emergency medical

Thanksgiving dinner: Holiday meals can also cause medical emergencies for pets. Chicken
and turkey bones can get stuck or can pierce holes in any portion of the digestive tract.
Rich foods can cause sudden pancreatitis or bloat. Keep holiday meals, leftovers, and table
scraps out of reach of your pet. If your pet insists on participating in the feast, cooked
vegetables (without the butter and salt) or commercial dog treats are safe in small amounts.

Cold weather: Indoor pets not acclimated to winter temperatures should not be left outside
in cold weather for long periods. Outdoor pets can withstand fairly cold temperatures if
they have shelter from wind and rain and have bedding to insulate them from the cold
ground. Avoid electrical heating devices that could electrocute your pet if they got wet or
were chewed. Outdoor pets need extra food in cold weather to generate body heat, and
they need access to water that is not frozen. Keep your pet's feet clean and dry. Ice or salt
will cause severe irritation when caught between your pet's toes. Frostbite is a winter
hazard to pets as well as people. Frostbitten areas are fragile and should be wrapped
snugly for protection from abrasion and from sudden temperature change. Severe frostbite
requires emergency treatment.

It is a busy time of year, with guests coming and going, decorations going up and down. Dr.
Krawiec advises keeping novel small items out of reach of your pet. Dogs and cats,
especially puppies and kittens, will eat anything. Non-food items lodged in your pet's
digestive tract is yet another emergency condition. Don't let curiosity kill your cat or your

For more information on the care of pets, contact your local veterinarian.