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How to Recognize a Winter Pet Emergency

Summertime comes with a host of hazards for pets, but colder weather also brings its own dangers. As the temperature drops, watch out for the following issues that can require emergency care for your furry pal.

Antifreeze toxicity in pets

Antifreeze is used to keep your car’s engine functioning in the winter, but it can wreak havoc on your pet’s internal systems. Ethylene glycol, the main ingredient in antifreeze, is a sweet substance that is poisonous to pets. If ingested, your pet may exhibit “drunken” behavior like nausea, vomiting, and stumbling. Antifreeze toxicity can escalate to seizures or a coma, so prompt treatment is crucial if you notice your pet lapping up a spilled antifreeze puddle.

Hypothermia and frostbite in pets

Hypothermia and frostbite go paw-in-paw if your four-legged friend plays outside for too long in cold, wet conditions. A pet’s normal body temperature typically falls between 100.5 and 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit, so a drop to 98 or 99 degrees is considered hypothermia. Signs include:

  • Pale skin
  • Shivering
  • Lethargy
  • Confusion
  • Cool body surfaces

Without treatment, hypothermia can cause your pet to stop shivering, collapse, have fixed and dilated pupils, develop slow and irregular heart and respiratory rates, or fall into a coma.

Frostbite occurs when bodily tissues become damaged because of extreme cold. As the body shunts blood away from the extremities (e.g., paws, ears, tail) to keep vital organs functioning, the skin will become pale and chilly to the touch. Frostbitten areas can turn scaly, red, and swollen when warmed, develop blisters, or darken and die. 

General emergency signs in pets

Frigid, wet weather and products to counteract these environmental conditions cause the most trouble for your pet, but wintertime also creates other hazards. Your furry pal may fall victim to poisonous seasonal plants, visiting guests’ medications, or toxic holiday meals. General warning signs that indicate your pet needs emergency veterinary treatment include:

  • Bleeding that does not stop
  • Unconsciousness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Excessive vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Limping or pain
  • Inability to urinate or defecate
  • Blood in urine or feces
  • Pale gums
  • Eye injuries

It can be difficult to know if your pet is experiencing a true emergency. When in doubt, contact our team for help.