dogs in winter

SAFETY OF DOGS & CATS IN WINTER

01/10/14

Winter can be a fun time for you and your pets. After all, who doesn’t love building snowmen and having snow ball fights? It’s important to keep in mind winter pet safety as there are dangers associated with the season as well.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Antifreeze is extremely toxic to pets

Antifreeze has a sweet taste that can be appealing to animals and amounts as small as a teaspoon can be deadly to pets. Make sure to clean up any spills quickly and keep the container out of reach. Propylene-based antifreeze, such as SIERRA Antifreeze/Coolant, is less toxic and is a pet-safe alternative to the common ethylene glycol antifreeze. Windshield cleaner is equally dangerous and should be kept in a safe spot and any spills should be cleaned up right away.  

Cold weather can rapidly deplete your pet’s energy

Make sure to offer your dog or cat plenty of water and ensure they are eating properly, as the cold weather can deplete their energy and lead to dehydration. Use plastic bowls and ensure the water hasn’t frozen over if it’s kept outside.

Salt can irritate your pet’s paws

Salt can inflame the pads of your pet’s feet and, if ingested, can irritate their mouths and trigger vomiting. Pet safe products for melting ice are available, but you are unable to control what other people use. To keep your pets healthy and happy, wash and dry their paws, legs and belly with a damp cloth when returning from outside. Pet booties and paw wax are also available to help protect your dog’s feet from the elements.

Some pets can stay outside longer than others

The breed of your pet will affect how they handle cold temperatures. For example, Huskies will manage better than short-haired breeds such as Dobermans when the temperature begins to drop. Pets with health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes or kidney disease will not be able to stay out as long as healthier pets.  Very young and seniors pets are especially vulnerable to the cold. For tips on enjoying the outdoors safely, read our article on winter walks.

Cold water poses a serious risk to pets

Use extra caution if allowing your dog off leash in the winter, especially if you live near water. Keep away from frozen ponds and lakes. If your dog breaks through the ice of a frozen pond or lake, it can be difficult for them to escape and very dangerous for you to try to save them. If this happens, DO NOT attempt to rescue them without seeking help first.

Dogs and cats can get hypothermia and frost bite

While your dog or cat may love spending time outdoors, a cold winter day is not the time to indulge them. “It’s cold out there, even for dogs with thick, full coats, and it doesn’t take long for frostbite, or worse, hypothermia to set in. On bitterly cold days or days with high winds, it would be wise to keep your dogs and cats inside with you as much as possible,” recommends Dr. Chip Coombs, Chief Veterinary Officer at Pets Plus Us. “If your dog or cat is lethargic and not moving around very much after spending time outside, they may have hypothermia and should be taken to your veterinarian immediately,” says Dr. Chip. “In addition, swollen ears and feet may be a sign of frost bite and also warrant a visit to the vet.”

Pets who live outdoors are at greater risk than indoor pets

If a pet normally lives outdoors in a doghouse (even one with a door and some insulation), one cannot assume that on very cold days, this shelter will offer adequate protection from the wind, snow and cold. On such occasions, it would be better to move this shelter into the garage. If this is not possible, then a safely placed 100 watt incandescent light bulb and extension cord should be provided as an internal source of heating. Regular checks to ensure their drinking water is not frozen are also crucial.

Cats seek warmth from car engines

Cats who are left outside often seek warmth from car engines by crawling up under the hood of the vehicle. Before heading out, bang the hood of your car to scare away any cats who may be hiding.

Remember, if it’s too cold outside for you, chances are it’s too cold for your cat or dog. Monitor your pets closely and consult your veterinarian if you see signs of hypothermia or frost bite. 

Keep your pet protected with pet health insurance coverage from Pets Plus Us.