Holidays, Cold Threaten Pets, UT Vet Says (335)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Cold weather and holidays can be deadly to pets, a University of Tennessee veterinarian said Monday.

 Dr. Dianne Mawby said holiday decorations, harmful foods and plants, heaters and cold weather vehicle care are seasonal threats to animals.

“Drinking antifreeze is one the most common causes of pet illness or death in winter,” Mawby said. “Cats sometimes sleep under warm car hoods and can be caught in fan belts. Pets using garages for shelter can suffer carbon monoxide poisoning if vehicles are left running in the closed garage for extended times.”

 Outdoor pets’ water should be checked more often in cold weather to make sure it is not frozen, Mawby said.

“Most outdoor pets do fine in cold weather if they have proper shelter, food and water,” Mawby said.

 “Bringing in animals that usually stay outdoors during cold weather reduces their natural ability to stay warm. It’s better to let them stay in outbuildings or sheds. In extreme cold, add additional blankets and straw in dog houses and cover dog house openings (to protect) from wind.”

Dogs accustomed to living inside may need to wear a sweater when going outside during exceptionally cold weather, she said.

 Mawby also said:

 * Holiday decorations can be harmful, especially to cats who may eat tinsel, ornaments, lights or other materials.

 * Large amounts of foods such as turkey can cause pancreatitis, which can kill pets. Pets can also choke on poultry bones.

 * Chocolate is particularly dangerous to dogs. A 20- pound dog will die if it eats a pound of chocolate.

 * Mistletoe, holly berries and poinsettia plants can cause skin irritation and cardiac stimulation in pets.

 * Traveling with pets requires additional planning and sometimes calling state officials to determine what health certificates are required to transport animals across state or international lines. To obtain state requirements, call (615) 360-0120; for international requirements, call (615) 781-5310.

 To receive a flyer of cold-weather tips for pet owners call the UT College of Veterinary Medicine at (423) 974-5869.

 Contact: Dr. Dianne Mawby (423-974-5503)