When the weather outside is frightful, your pets could be at risk! Winter is a season of bitter cold and numbing wetness. Make sure your four-footed family members stay safe and warm by following these simple guidelines.
Remember These Tips To Keep Animals Safe and Comfortable In The Cold
Some dogs are more susceptible to the cold than others. Short-coated, thin, elderly, or very young dogs get cold more quickly – so adjust the amount of time they stay outside. If your dog enjoys being outdoors and you will be outside longer than a few minutes, consider outfitting it with a sweater or coat to keep it warm. No matter what the temperature is, windchill can threaten a pet's life. Exposed skin on noses, ears and paw pads are at risk for frostbite and hypothermia during extreme cold snaps. Hypothermia and frostbite pose major risks to dogs in winter, so remember, if it is too cold for you, it is probably too cold for your dog!
Be Seen, Be Safe
More pets become lost in the winter than any other season because snowfall can disguise recognizable scents that would normally help them find their way home. Prevent your pets from becoming lost by keeping dogs leashed on walks and, just in case you are separated from your pets, make sure their collars have up-to-date contact information and they are microchipped. Due to Daylight Savings, many of us are relegated to walking our dogs in the dark. Keep yourself and your dog safe by wearing reflective gear (clothing, leash, collar, safety vest, etc.) and keeping your dog close when walking on the street.
When walking your dog, be sure to avoid frozen lakes and ponds. You and your dog could be seriously hurt or even killed if the ice breaks. If you love to hike and explore the outdoors, use common sense and stick to parks, trails and paths that you are familiar with.
Remove Common Poisons
During winter walks, your dog’s paws can pick up all kinds of toxic chemicals – salt, antifreeze, or de-icers. Antifreeze attracts cats and dogs because it is very sweet to taste, but it is extremely poisonous and can cause serious illness or death when ingested. Wipe up any antifreeze spills immediately and keep it, like all household chemicals, out of reach to your pets and children. Dogs are at particular risk of salt poisoning in winter due to the rock salt used in many areas—often when licking it from their paws after a walk.
Rock salt and other chemicals used to melt snow and ice can irritate the pads of your pet's feet. Wipe all paws with a damp towel before your pet licks them and irritates their mouth. And when wiping off your dog’s paws, remember to check for signs of injury, such as cracked or bleeding paws. Store de-icing salt in a safe place. Purchase pet-safe de-icers for your home for an extra level of safety. If your dog ingests rock salt, call a veterinarian immediately.
Check The Hood
Cats often sleep in the wheel wells of cars during the winter months to keep warm. If you start your car and a cat is sleeping on your tire, it can be severely hurt or even killed by moving engine parts. Prevent injuries by banging loudly on your hood or honking the horn before starting your car. This will wake up the cat and give it a chance to escape before starting the car.
Leave Them Home
Just as hot cars are dangerous for pets in the summer, cold cars pose a threat as well! Only take your pets in the car if it is necessary, and never leave them unattended.
Keep Pets Sheltered
Ideally, all pets should live inside. If your pets primarily live outdoors, bring them indoors during sub-zero temperatures. Provide them with a dry, draft-free shelter that is large enough to allow them to sit and lay down comfortably, but small enough to conserve body heat. The floor should be raised a few inches off the ground and covered with cedar shavings, straw or - even better - purchase a heated kennel matt. Turn the shelter so it faces away from the wind and cover the doorway with waterproof burlap or heavy plastic. Pets who spend a lot of time outside need more food to replace energy lost from trying to stay warm. Use plastic food and water dishes instead of metal – when the temperature is low enough, your pets’ tongue can become stuck to metal.
Winter brings extreme weather that can cause power outages. Have an emergency plan and make sure they include your pets! Have an emergency kit with enough food, water, and medication to last your pets at least five days. Most likely you will never need it, but if you do, you will be thankful you planned ahead!
DR. ADAM SNIDERMAN, VMD
“Live With Them, Love Them, Laugh With Them! We Treat Them Like Our Own.”