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Fall pet hazards.

  • Antifreeze (propylene glycol)
    • Chemical exposure – this includes both antifreeze and de-icing solutions. Exposure to these chemicals is usually accidental and occurs as a result of the normal curiosity of both dogs and cats an as well as the scent and taste of antifreeze solutions. While few people change the antifreeze in their vehicles coolant system, overheating on a warm day can result in spillage onto the driveway or street surface. Many of these products have a sweet taste which explains their attraction to primarily dogs, although cats may also become affected if they were to taste and sample the spilled product Conventional antifreeze (ethylene glycol) causes problems by virtue of its similarity to and utilization of the same liver enzyme that is responsible for metabolizing spirits containing ethanol. Like ethanol, ethylene glycol is rapidly absorbed across the wall of the stomach and has a similar onset and progression of signs – first mental confusion, incoordination, sedation progressing to semi-coma and coma (if untreated)coupled with the onset of kidney failure. Depending on the time frame from exposure and consumption to diagnosis and treatment, the prognosis can range from fair (with early administration of antidotal treatment) to poor resulting from end-stage kidney disease. As with many problems, avoidance of exposure as well as usage of environmentally friendly propylene glycol in place of the standard ethylene glycol preparations limits the potential for antifreeze toxicity. Low Tox brand products contain propylene glycol; ask your auto repair person to use these products in place of ethylene glycol.
  • Plants
  • Lawn and Garden products
  • Rodent Control and Baits
  • Liquid Potpourries


Fall is a period of time when many spring blooming bulbs are being planted and a period when plants sensitive to freezing temperatures are either brought inside in containers or the roots and tubers are dug out of the ground and stored in a cool area of the house. Many plants can cause gastrointestinal irritation to small animals. Certain plants have more specific effects on excretory organs like the liver and kidneys as well as the more sensitive tissue in the body, the brain. All parts of some plants can be either toxic or cause illness; certain plant parts contain more concentrated amounts of a toxic principle. Below are listed some common plants that should be avoided or placed out of reach to avert accidental exposure.

  • Autumn crocus – toxic principle concentrated in the bulbs. GI signs and circulatory failure are common intoxication signs.
  • Beets – the above ground+ plant parts are toxic and cause kidney disease.
  • Daphne – the entire plant. Gi signs and kidney problems are the primary organs affected.
  • Daffodil and jonquils -  - bulbs contain the highest concentration of intoxicants. A portion of one bulb may be sufficient to result in small animal death. GO signs, tremors and seizures are common presenting signs.
  • Euphorbia (spurges)- the sap of cut plants and leaves. Signs affect the GI tract and irritation to the skin and mucous membranes. (Ingestion of 15 of a patient’s body weight will cause illness).
  • English ivy – berries and leaves are toxic. GI and skin irritation occurs
  • False sago palm – commonly kept as an indoor plant. Seeds and leaves are toxic. GI, liver intoxication and neurologic problems are the primary organs affected.
  • Christmas rose (hellebores) – the entire plant is toxic. Go and heart rhythm disturbances are common.
  • Holly – berries contain the toxic principles. Gi signs are typical signs.
  • Oak tree plant parts – acorns and sprouted acorns. This problem is more commonly seen in grazing animals. Signs include GI, liver and kidney related signs.

There are multiple plants that can cause illness and a more extensive list is available on request. The Pet Poison Control hotline as well as your regular veterinarian (The Village Vet) are good sources for information regarding how a particular accidental ingestion should be managed.


Fertilizers pose a hazard as far as their nitrogen content; ingestion or skin contact followed by ingestion typically leads to GI upsets.  It is the herbicidal additive to a fertilizer product that may cause the more significant health problem. Avoidance of exposure can be minimized by careful application planning and watering after broadcast spreading. This would limit both exposure to pets via oral ingestion and skin contact.. Cocoa mulch products can also be hazardous to pets (see prior blog article on chocolates – the same principles apply).


With the onset of cooler temperatures, small rodents often move inside to seek shelter and food. The use of rodent baits is almost universal; however, rodent baits can affect small animal health and lead to significant illness following inadvertent primary exposure. Careful placement of a bait in an area that is shielded from entry by the household pets is the best strategy. Typically tertiary exposure to a household pet by ingestion of a rodent that has ingested poison bait does not cause significant health hazard. Containment of birdseed in containers with lids also eliminates the lure of an easy food source in a garage area.


Potpourries are hazardous to pets and care should be used when the simmer pots are brought out in the fall. Make sure lids are covered and spillage is promptly cleaned from counter surfaces.