Winter Hazards And Your Pets

Winter Hazards And Your Pets

Winter is upon us once again and the Animal Poisons Helpline has already noticed a seasonal change in the types of poisons that pet owners are calling us for. Whilst many warmer weather risks such as fertilisers, insecticides, snakes, and jellyfish have all but disappeared; winter toxins such as wild mushrooms, cold and flu medications and iron-based heat packs are rapidly becoming more prevalent.

Mushrooms are still actively growing, particularly in the days following heavy rainfall. Whilst the ingestion of most wild mushrooms results in little other than mild gastrointestinal upset, some can cause severe or life-threatening poisoning. Please be cautious and keep an eye on your pet whilst walking them. Where possible, remove any mushrooms from your yard before your pet has a chance to play with or eat them. Stinkhorns are very attractive to dogs (due to their smell) and some species can result in severe effects following ingestion.

Cold and flu medications usually contain a range of active ingredients, many of which can cause toxic effects when ingested in sufficient quantity. Paracetamol is commonly found in cold and flu medication and can potentially result in severe poisoning and even death following ingestion. Cats are particularly sensitive to paracetamol and can be severely poisoned by very small doses. Oral decongestants, such as pseudoephedrine, result in stimulant effects such as hyperactivity, agitation, a rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, tremor and possibly seizures. Sedating antihistamines and cough suppressants which are commonly found in cold and flu tablets can also be harmful.

Disposable iron-based heat packs (most that contain a black or grey powder or granular material inside them) can be highly toxic if ingested. Initial signs of iron toxicity can include severe vomiting and diarrhoea. Early veterinary treatment in these cases can be lifesaving.

If your pet has been exposed to any of these winter toxins, please phone the Animal Poisons Helpline on 1300 869 738 (AU) or 0800 869 738 (NZ) for advice. The Animal Poisons Helpline is a free service for all pet owners in Australia and New Zealand.

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