Steps to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning in humans and pets
By Dr. Gerald Bellin, DVM
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC
This past week’s temperatures I am sure have made everyone turn up their heat at home. A potential toxin known as carbon monoxide can be a household hazard this time of year and lead to carbon monoxide poisoning or even death for both our two-legged and four-legged “children.”
Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless, and tasteless gas that can endanger pets and humans alike. We do not need to get technical on how this poisoning happens, but the basics behind it is that carbon monoxide has more attraction to the red blood cells in our pets bloodstream than oxygen. The results are that carbon monoxide will attach to red blood cells and circulate to the lungs before oxygen does.
Some of you may have heard that if you have pet birds in the house, they are usually the first to be affected and indicate a problem. Birds are at an even higher risk of death because their lungs are so efficient and more sensitive to these gas changes occurring.
We and our pets can be exposed to carbon monoxide produced when burning fuels from furnaces, garage heating units, stoves, fires and fireplaces, cars, trucks, generators, and gas grills. For those that travel with their pets, even the airplane cargo area can build up with carbon monoxide. When running this equipment, it is important for good ventilation.
Symptoms or clinical signs of carbon monoxide poisoning can go undetected in our pets until it is too late. If we as pet owners are around, we will usually develop a headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and weakness. Pets will be sleepier, lethargic, depressed, weak, uncoordinated, have difficulty breathing, or have bright red gums and skin. If you see these signs, remove your pet from the environmental source of carbon monoxide into fresh air. Then get yourself to the hospital and someone else to bring your pet to your veterinarian.
The best way to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning is to prevent it. Be sure any area with the potential for this poisonous gas to accumulate has a working carbon monoxide detector at all times. When carbon monoxide levels become elevated, the sensors will alert you of the danger. Also, having your heating system, furnace, water heater, and other fuel-burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician each year will reduce risks. Again, be sure any fuel-run equipment is well ventilated. Following these methods of prevention will save you and your pets and not allow you to succumb to carbon monoxide poisoning.
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC is located at 210 Airpark Road in Marshfield and online at wildwoodanimalhospital.net.