Cold weather can bring potential risks and hazards for pets. Protect your four-legged friend from the dangers of winter by keeping the following considerations in mind.

 

Age and medical conditions

  • Difficulty getting up and down, problems walking on icy surfaces, and limited mobility in senior and arthritic pets can be exacerbated when temperatures drop.
  • Young and old pets have a more difficult time regulating their body temperatures. To avoid the onset of hypothermia, limit their exposure to cold temperatures.
  • Certain diseases may be negatively impacted by cold weather. Heart disease, kidney failure, diabetes, and other conditions can make regulating body temperatures difficult.

 

Time outside

  • Pets should not be left outside for extended periods when temperatures drop too low.
  • Bathroom breaks are a necessity, no matter the weather conditions, but, the colder the temperatures, the shorter the bathroom breaks should be. Some small and short-haired breeds may benefit from a coat and booties when nature calls during cold weather.
  • Walks and time spent playing outside may need to be shortened if it’s too cold. Certain dogs bred for colder climates, such as Newfoundlands, will tolerate winter conditions better than others. Pets can develop hypothermia and frostbite. Signs of hypothermia include violent shivering, lethargy, breathing problems, and muscle stiffness. If hypothermia persists, coma and cardiac arrest could result. Signs of frostbite can include shriveled skin that stays cold, painful extremities, pale or blue skin (early on), and red or puffy skin (in the later stages).

 

Potential toxins

  • With a sweet smell and taste, antifreeze may seem like a treat to dogs. But, the delicious-tasting ethylene glycol can be lethal when consumed by pets, so this product is best kept out of your pet’s reach. Thoroughly clean any spills and securely store containers to avoid potential ingestion.
  • Furnaces and space heaters keep us warm as the weather cools, but they can also increase our chances of carbon monoxide poisoning. Prior to turning on your furnace, have annual maintenance performed to ensure it’s working properly. Turn off all space heaters when you aren’t home. Install carbon monoxide detectors throughout your home, regularly checking the batteries.
  • The chemicals used in ice-melting salts can be toxic to our pets if ingested. Select pet-safe brands to use around your home. Wipe your pet’s paws after going outside to reduce the likelihood of damage to the paws or accidental consumption of a toxic ice-melt product.
  • More time spent inside can lead to bored and inquisitive pets. Properly store all household cleaners, as most are poisonous if consumed.
  • Keep all foods out of your pet’s reach. Many human foods, from onions to the artificial sweetener xylitol, are toxic to pets.

 

Grooming

  • Avoid cutting your dog’s coat too short during the colder months. A dog’s coat plays an integral role in regulating body temperature and providing warmth.
  • After baths, be sure the coat is completely dry prior to venturing outside. For dogs with long hair on their feet, ask your groomer to keep it trimmed to avoid potential snow and ice from collecting.

 

Additional considerations

  • If your dog has naturally short hair, invest in a sweater or coat that covers him from neck to tail. This can help regulate his body temperature and keep him warm. Dog booties can help protect the paws from the cold and potentially toxic ice melts.
  • When leaving home, check around your vehicle for cats. Outdoor cats can regularly be found in engines or atop tires seeking warmth.
  • Your pet’s body composition can impact how well he tolerates colder temperatures.

 

Limit time spent in colder temperatures, and be on the lookout for potential dangers—both inside and out—to keep your pet safe. An easy rule to follow is if it’s too cold for you to be outside for an extended period of time, it’s probably too cold for your pet, too. For additional guidance on how to keep your pet healthy this winter, give us a call.