Cooler weather is on the horizon again. If we share our lives with animal friends, we must attend to “winterizing” our pets as well as our houses and vehicles. Winter months and the hectic holiday season can pose certain health and safety risks to pets. Help prepare your pets for winter by following these tips.
Don’t Expose Your Dog to Wind Chill
Cold outside temperatures on a windless day are one thing. However, wind chill combined with rain, sleet, or the occasional snow can be fatal. Don’t leave your dog outside in your yard when the temperature drops. Hypothermia (an extreme lowering of the body temperature) in dogs is often the result of overexposure to frigid temperatures with no way to stay warm. Very young, senior, and shorthaired dogs are at the greatest risk for issues related to exposure to cold.
Protect Your Pet’s Paws
Pet paws are susceptible to frostbite. Any caked ice or snow should be removed from your pet’s feet. Frostbitten skin may become white or scaly and peeling. In case of frostbite, use warm, moist towels to gradually thaw out the affected areas. Then take your pet to your vet to assess the damage.
Salt and other chemicals used to melt ice can burn the pads of your pet’s feet. If your pet then licks his feet to clean them, his mouth may become burned also. After any exposure, use a damp towel to wipe down the feet. And, deck your dog out in a set of protective booties. There are even booties for cats!
During winter’s dark days and long nights, your dog can be hard to see. Prepare your pet for winter by investing in a reflective collar or tags and leashes embedded with blinkers and LED lights.
Clean Up Any Antifreeze Spillage
Antifreeze (ethylene glycol) has a bit of a sweet taste, and many animals find it irresistible. Unfortunately, just a small amount can cause permanent kidney damage. So, check that your car is not leaking antifreeze, avoid draining it into the street, and wipe up any spills. Store your antifreeze in a tightly closed container well out of reach of pets (and children).
- If you suspect your dog or cat has been enjoying lapping up some antifreeze, visit your veterinarian immediately.
Pay Attention During the Holidays
Winter festivities are fun for you, your family, and your pets. But be aware of exposing your pets to potentially toxic or dangerous holiday items, e.g., chocolate, holiday plants, holly berries and leaves, tinsel. Call your vet right away or the Animal Poison Control Center (888-426-4435) if your pet has eaten something dangerous.
Don’t Bring Your Outdoor Bunny Inside
When thinking about preparing your pets for winter, it’s tempting to consider bringing your outdoor rabbit indoors for a while during a cold spell. However, your rabbit’s body has adapted to the outdoor weather variations, including more frigid temperatures. Once indoors, their body can’t compensate for the extra warmth. They then become overheated and succumb to the cold once returned to their outdoor environment. Pneumonia is a common outcome.
Prepare Your Pets for Winter – Let Common Sense Guide You
Common sense should guide most of the decisions you make to prepare your pets for winter and keep them out of harm’s way. However, if you live in our area and you do have a winter emergency (e.g., hypothermia, antifreeze poisoning) and your regular vet is closed, don’t hesitate to bring your pet to us. (Please note that CVETS does not offer routine vet care.)