Locally-Owned in Oakdale and St. Paul, Minnesota

4 Hazards to Your Pet This Winter

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If your pet is experiencing respiratory distress or seizures caused by a toxin or persistent non-productive retching, these are considered “RED” – or true emergencies – on our Fast Track Triage system. We advise you to seek immediate veterinary care. Please call ahead of your arrival so the veterinary team knows to expect you!

If your pet is experiencing severe symptoms of hypothermia, this is considered a “RED” – or true emergency – on our Fast Track Triage system. We advise you to seek immediate veterinary care. Please call ahead of your arrival so the veterinary team knows to expect you!

  • Wrap a warm blanket around your pet and turn on the heat in the car while transporting your pet to the vet.
  • DO NOT use heating pads or hot water bottles on your pets; they can cause burns.
  • If your pet experiences frostbite, avoid touching or aggressively heating the area. Instead, use lukewarm water to slowly re-warm the affected spot as you transport your pet to the vet.
  • Please note if your pet is stable, bright and alert, up and walking, your pet’s status will not be considered “RED” and our team will help assess your pet’s symptoms and determine your pet’s status over the phone.

If you witnessed or strongly suspect your pet ate or was topically exposed to a toxin, these are considered “ORANGE ” – or urgent cases – on our Fast Track Triage system. We recommend calling ASPCA Animal Poison Control at 888-426-4435 for help determining if your pet consumed a toxic amount and for guidance on what to do next. If veterinary care is advised, call your family veterinarian or local animal emergency hospital ahead of your arrival.

Please see our Fast Track Triage chart at the end of this blog for more symptoms and their corresponding triage color codes.


Whether your pet loves running around in the snow or if your pet avoids going outside during the winter, it’s important to keep them safe from the cold weather and numerous pet toxins this winter.

1. Cold Weather
Minnesota winters are beautiful!  However, as we all know they can be brutally cold. Exposure to the cold weather can quickly result in frost bite and life-threatening hypothermia. Pets that are very young, elderly, sick or have short hair coats are at highest risk. Keep trips outside short and watch your pet closely. If your pet is shivering, whining, anxious, lifting their paws out of the snow, lethargic or weak; it is time to go inside and warm up. If it is too cold outside for you, it is also too cold for your pet! Learn more about keeping your pet safe from the cold weather here.

2.  Antifreeze (Ethylene Glycol)
Pets can encounter antifreeze, a sweet tasting chemical, when in the garage or driveway. Even a very small ingestion can be life-threatening. Within hours the pet may show signs of intoxication such as depression, stumbling and vomiting. Symptoms will then improve.  However, within the next 1-2 days the pet can go into kidney failure and die. If you think that your pet has been exposed to antifreeze, seek veterinary care immediately. It is also recommended that any house with pets use propylene glycol antifreeze. While propylene glycol can still be toxic to pets, they must ingest more of the liquid to become sick.

3.  Ice Melt Chemicals and Salt
These products can cause irritation and chemical burns to your pet’s paws. If the substance is licked off the feet it can also cause irritation to the mouth, drooling and vomiting. If you walk your dog in areas where these products are used, please wash their feet with a moist cloth when you get home. If you have pets, we recommend using the pet-safe products available.

4. Rat And Mouse Killers
Just as these baits kill rodents, they can also kill your pet. There are several products on the market and they work in different ways. Some cause internal bleeding; some cause neurologic symptoms (tremors, seizures, death), and still others cause organ failure. If your pet has ingested one of these products, seek veterinary care immediately. Removal of the material from your pet’s stomach and early treatment could save your pet’s life.  Unfortunately, some signs of toxicity can take days to develop. If they have not received treatment by that time, your pet could require intensive in-hospital care or have irreversible organ damage.

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We hope you and your pets have a safe winter. Contact your veterinarian right away if your pet needs medical attention. If your veterinarian is unavailable, our Oakdale and St. Paul emergency clinics are open 24/7 and ready to help your pet!

More Reading: 

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