Winter Hazards And Your Pets

Winter Hazards And Your Pets

With the cooler weather upon us, the Animal Poisons Helpline has noticed a seasonal change in the types of toxins that animals are being exposed to. A reminder to our pet owning followers to be mindful of winter hazards such as cold and flu medications, single use heat packs, wild mushrooms, and firelighters.

Cold and flu medications usually contain a combination of active ingredients, many of which can cause toxic effects when ingested in sufficient quantity. Paracetamol is commonly found in such products and can potentially result in severe poisoning 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. Even some nasal sprays that contain decongestants can be very toxic to pets when ingested.

Disposable iron-based heat packs (most that contain a black or grey powder or granular material inside them) can also be toxic if ingested, particularly if they have not yet been used. Initial signs of iron toxicity can include severe vomiting and diarrhoea.
Whilst we are at the tail-end of the ‘mushroom season’, the Animal Poisons Helpline is still receiving a significant number of calls regarding pets eating wild mushrooms. 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 eat them.

Firelighters are another common winter hazard. Strangely, some dogs seem to be attracted to firelighters and will eat large amounts if given the chance to do so. Whilst severe poisoning is not expected, ingestion can result in irritation to the gastrointestinal tract and potentially gastrointestinal obstruction.

Please be careful this winter to ensure your pets do not have access to these, or other toxins. If your pet has eaten something they should not have, 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. Don’t miss the next pet poisons alert. Visit to subscribe to our mailing list and receive updates and alerts directly to your inbox.