Pet Talk: Pet emergencies you might encounter |

Pet Talk: Pet emergencies you might encounter

Living in the mountains, it's important to make sure that your pets are properly bundled up in the winter.
Special to the Daily

It’s ski season here in the Vail Valley — the time of year when we have a huge influx of tourists visiting our lovely county, along with their pets. It’s not uncommon to receive a weekend emergency call from a nervous visiting pet owner about various hazards that their pets may have been exposed to during their visit.

Marijuana Toxicity

It’s 3 a.m. and the first call comes in. A pet is very groggy, falling over and seems drunk. Most commonly, this call comes in when the pet has been exposed to marijuana. With the legalization of marijuana in many states, the Pet Poison Helpline (1-800-222-1222) has seen a 448 percent increase in the number of toxicity cases in pets. Animals in our Vail Valley can be exposed to marijuana in many ways. They can ingest marijuana being used by a not-so-careful owner or by second-hand smoke. Signs of toxicity include dilated eyes, dazed mentation, difficulty standing or walking, falling over, dribbling urine, tremors and potentially a coma. Although there is no antidote, your emergency on-call veterinarian can provide steps to induce vomiting in early exposure, administer agents to decrease absorption and provide supportive care through fluid therapy and hospitalization.

Rodenticide toxicity

It’s Sunday afternoon and a client arrives to their short-term rental property and immediately their pet finds a chunk of a green substance in a box in the garage as they unload their car. An unknowing pet owner may not immediately assume this is a rodenticide, but rodenticides such as D-con can lead to a pet’s death. If you find any rodenticides in your place of residence, immediately dispose of it. If your pet has been exposed, contact the emergency on-call veterinarian immediately to induce vomiting, and obtain the appropriate antidote. While in the short time, pets will not exhibit any abnormal signs, they will eventually succumb to the toxin within a short period of time.

Frostbite and hypothermia

It’s Monday morning and an owner just arrived yesterday from Houston with their Chihuahua. They forgot to bring a little coat for their pet, or protective boots and decided to head to the trail for a hike in the snow. They were very unprepared for the extreme cold. The pet is now limping on the front paws, and the tips of the ears are looking unusual in color. What the owner did not know is that when the pet gets cold, the body will pull blood from all the extremities to retain body heat, resulting in the pet’s ears, tails and paws becoming damaged. Luckily, this pet was okay, but we urge tourists to try to keep your pets’ exposure time to a minimum and bring clothing and boots for your short-haired furry friends.

Hand warmers

Once again, it’s one of those 2 a.m. calls. A large 85-pound dog was alone in the house while the tourists went into town and when they got home they discovered their package of hand warmers was opened and one was missing. According to The Pet Poison helpline, hand warmers can contain iron, which if ingested, can cause a variety of symptoms including lethargy and vomiting, diarrhea and at higher doses cause more severe signs such as shock and tremors, as well as liver and cardiac side effects. Luckily, this pet owner was able to induce vomiting quickly and the pet did not suffer any consequences, but please beware this could be you. If you think your pet ingested a hand warmer, contact the emergency on-call veterinarian.


It’s Friday afternoon now and some folks have just arrived from New York. They pull up next to an old car with a puddle of green substance underneath it. Their thirsty pet quickly escaped their grasp and began licking the sweet tasting, deadly substance. It is antifreeze. Fortunately, the owner was aware this is very toxic to the kidneys of pets and was able to bring the pet in immediately for the antidote, but many unknowing folks will let their pets off leash, which can increase exposure to thing such as antifreeze in the winter months. Once again, seek immediate veterinary care should your pet become exposed to antifreeze.

We encourage tourists to vacation with their pets here in our beautiful valley, but we also want to prepare them for the potential hazards they face and increase awareness to avoid emergency vet visits.

Sheila Fitzpatrick, DVM, is the owner of Mountain Animal Hospital Center and Mobile Veterinarian.

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