Pet Points: Beware of fall's hazards

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As I was outside and doing my end-of-season garden chores, I thought about some end-of-summer pet points.

• Fleas: Pets are still coming to the office with fleas. Any itchy pet this time of year is considered to have fleas until proven otherwise. Even without seeing a flea, we search for flea droppings.

Tiny curls of flea "dirt" can be seen on the exam table, a white bedsheet or a piece of paper placed under the pet while it is scratching. Outside, adult fleas are killed by freezing weather. But if you continue to see fleas on your pet, the eggs may be hatching in the house.

Adult fleas can lay 40 eggs a day for four to six weeks. Your pets are asked to feed the fleas and their extended family. Once the indoor environment is infested, it needs to be sprayed with a product that kills fleas and prevents eggs from hatching. Visit your veterinary office and ask the staff to help you find a high-quality product.

• Ticks: Ticks are a problem all through the winter. Unlike fleas, ticks survive freezing weather by hiding in leaf litter. On sunny winter days, ticks are still looking for some blood for their meal. A fully engorged tick can lay hundreds to thousands of eggs. Continued use of tick medication is suggested through the winter, especially if the weather is mild. Spring starts the tick season all over again.

Locally, we are seeing an increase in the number of ticks sighted and in Lyme disease. Warmer temperatures and the migration of birds carrying ticks is thought to be the reason. Veterinarians will advise you to use a good topical product and follow the directions very carefully. Cats can be poisoned by ingesting recently applied dog tick treatments.

• Chocolate: With Halloween trick-or-treating this week, you probably have lots of chocolate treats around the house. Some dogs will consume large amounts of chocolate if given the chance and it can be quite toxic to them. A 20-pound dog can be poisoned by eating just 8.2 ounces of milk chocolate, 2.8 ounces of dark chocolate or just under 1 ounce of baking chocolate. Signs of toxicity include vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, tremors, seizures, an elevated heart rate and death. Please keep all chocolate out of the reach of dogs.

• Antifreeze: Antifreeze is another toxic substance that pets can consume this time of year. They are drawn by its sweet taste and it can cause renal failure. We must be very careful when changing or adding antifreeze. Any leaks should be cleaned up promptly and disposed of carefully.

With all the hazards of fall, I am looking forward to winter.


Lawrence Gerson is a veterinarian and founder of the Point Breeze Veterinary Clinic. His biweekly column is intended to educate pet owners. Consultation with a veterinarian is necessary to diagnose and treat individual pets. If you have a question you'd like addressed in Pet Points, email Please include your name and municipality or neighborhood.


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