AntiFreeze, Trees and Pesky Plants

Winter brings different challenges for our pets:

An expanding waistline from walks cut short because of cold, dark rainy nights, and our older companions with cold-hating arthritic joints, both of these can be easily helped…but that’s the subject of another post

However, there are more urgent challenges that may require a trip to the emergency vet…


Both cats and dogs are at risk, and just a teaspoon amount could kill a cat. 

They don’t even have to drink it – they can be poisoned from grooming it off their coat and paws.

Antifreeze is present in car radiator coolants, windscreen de-icing products, and sometimes in brake fluid and in paints. So garages are the most common source. 

Signs of antifreeze (ethylene glycol) poisoning are:

  • Suddenly drinking lots
  • Looking wobbly or falling over 
  • Panting (cats should never pant)
  • Lethargy or excessive sleepiness 

Ingesting antifreeze can be fatal. The ethylene glycol can cause kidney failure, coma and death within hours.

If your cat or dog looks wobbly or suddenly wants to drink a lot, contact your vet urgently

Click here if you need a vet in Surrey and here if you need a vet in the Midlands 

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas tree…

They look pretty, but in addition to dogs stealing and eating those chocolate tree decorations, the tree itself can cause problems too.

Christmas tree needles are short and sharp and as such as easy swallowed, they can cause an obstruction or even perforation of the gut. 

Baubles fall into the same category, causing a Christmassy obstruction for us vets to remove… makes a change from chicken bones and socks..

The natural oils in a Christmas tree can cause irritation to the mouth and digestive tract.

Christmas light wires can be dangerous to puppies and kittens who may have a chew at them; equally the tree itself can be dangerous if your kitten or cat climbs up and pulls it over!

Kissing under the Mistletoe…

…is fine; just don’t eat it! 

Likewise, holly and poinsettia are other Christmas plants that are poisonous. 

It would a good point here to put in a reminder about lilies and cats – they can cause rapid kidney failure, so best to just not have them in the house (lilies that is, not our lovely cats!) 

Bear in mind that plant and tree food may have toxic ingredients which could be harmful if your pet drinks them

Often the novelty aspect of new plants in the house sparks interest from our pets, meaning they are more likely to nibble or eat them. 

Do your best to keep them out of paws reach.

There are too many poisonous plants to usefully list here, so if you have a plant at home, or buy or receive one for Christmas, take a moment to look up some details before you leave your cat or dog alone with it. 

Maybe I should just get artificial ones then?!

Not a bad idea, but bear in mind that plastic can still be chewed and eaten, and indeed I had a cat called Purdy who used to chew the artificial tree – fortunately she didn’t eat enough plastic to cause any problems, but that was because we limited her access to it when we weren’t at home, and distracted her with toys and cuddles when we were!

Gosh with all of this worry-mongering by me you must wonder if it’s worth having a Christmas celebration at all! 

However rest assured, the dangers can be minimised through awareness (which is the point of this blog) and vigilance

Good advice would be not to leave your pets to their own devices in the house, and if they do have an unhealthy interest in trying to eat as many harmful things as they can, then distract them through playing and cuddles! 

My aim is to empower owners with relevant knowledge – and hopefully I will be able to enjoy my Christmas dinner, without being called out to help a patient having a Christmassy catastrophe…

Merry Christmas 


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