Winter’s coldest months are ahead of us, and although your pet has her own personal fur coat, she is still susceptible to weather-related injuries and medical conditions. Protect your furry friend from the cold weather by following our team’s cold weather safety tips. 

#1: Monitor your pet’s outdoor time

Pets who are left outside in the cold for prolonged periods can develop dangerous hypothermia or frostbite, so limiting  your pet’s outdoor time is important. When temperatures dip below freezing, it’s safest to let your pet out for short potty breaks, walks, and play sessions only. Your playful, outdoor-loving pooch might not have the sense to come in when he is cold, so you may have to herd him inside after a romp in the backyard.

Puppies, kittens, and pets who are older or debilitated don’t regulate their body temperature as well as other animals, and are at an increased risk of hypothermia development. Watch these pets particularly closely, and purchase a sweater or coat for them to wear outside.

No pet should live outside in extreme temperatures, and outdoor pets must be brought inside during the winter months to prevent hypothermia, frostbite, or death.

#2: Protect your pet’s feet

Although a thick skin layer covers your pet’s feet,, repeated snow, ice, and salt exposure can cause painful drying and cracking. Check your pet’s feet daily during the winter for signs of injury. You can also purchase booties, or apply a wax product, such as Musher’s Secret, to protect his feet. 

#3: Prevent antifreeze toxicity in pets

Most antifreeze products, such as radiator coolant and windshield deicing fluid, contain a high concentration of ethylene glycol, an extremely toxic chemical that, if ingested, can cause death to animals. Unfortunately, antifreeze is sweet, and pets will readily lap up spills without realizing its toxic potential. As little as one teaspoon can cause death in cats, and one to two tablespoons can be deadly to dogs. Ethylene glycol toxicity causes acute kidney failure that quickly progresses to death if treatment is not administered shortly after ingestion. An antidote is available, but is successful only if administered within three hours of ingestion for cats, and within 8 to 12 hours of ingestion for dogs.

Preventing ethylene glycol ingestion is much easier than treating life-threatening toxicity, so keep all antifreeze products out of reach. Clean up spills immediately, and store all chemicals where your pet cannot get to them. 

#4: Keep ice-melt products away from your pet

When snow and ice builds up on walkways, homeowners often spread ice-melt products made of salt compounds that can be toxic to pets who ingest them. Although your pet is not likely to purposely eat these concentrated salt products, he may ingest them as he grooms his feet, legs, and belly after walking through your neighborhood. Effects from ingesting a small amount are typically limited to gastrointestinal upset, diarrhea, and vomiting, but larger intake may cause severe electrolyte imbalances. Dermal contact with ice melt products can also cause skin irritation. 

No ice-melt products are truly pet-safe, so keep your pet off treated walkways, and wipe his feet and belly after walks to remove any chemicals from his fur. 

#5: Never walk your pet on frozen ponds

There are horror stories each year about pets who fall through the ice, and owners who put themselves in danger trying to rescue them. Stick to well-known paths while walking your dog, and don’t venture into unknown territory. Never walk out onto ice, because you cannot be certain it is thick enough to support your weight. Keep your dog on a leash, and don’t let him wander ahead on his own or chase other animals, because he could accidentally end up on thin ice.

#6: Clear a path for your pet to prevent falls

When snow and ice pile up, don’t forget to shovel a path so your pet can get to his favorite bathroom spots without slipping and falling. Take particular care to keep paths clear for older, arthritic pets who may be unsteady on their feet. A painful back injury, sprain, or broken bone could result from a bad fall and land your pet in the emergency room. 

If you have questions about keeping your pet safe this winter, or if you think your pet has a cold-weather-related injury, contact us.