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Winter Pet Safety Tips

BABY IT’S COLD OUTSIDE - WINTER PET SAFETY TIPS

The colder temperatures and precipitation that we encounter in the Winter months can be quite dangerous to our pets. The following is a list of Winter Safety Tips to consider for dogs and cats.

Hypothermia:  Although most dogs and cats have furry coats, they are still susceptible to the effects of cold temperatures and hypothermia. Ideally, allow them outdoors only for the time it takes to urinate and defecate, and for short walks. If the pet stops walking, starts to shiver, or becomes sluggish, seek shelter, and immediately bring them indoors for warmth.

For animals who live primarily outdoors, make sure that there is adequate shelter with warm bedding, food, and nonfrozen water. Specially-made heated dog and cat houses, and water heaters can help to provide warmth and prevent water bowls from freezing. Be aware that space heaters can be dangerous if left unattended, due to the risk that they can fall over and cause fire. A pet can get burned if allowed to sleep too close to the heater and/or does not have sufficient room to get away from it.

Small animals, including cats, will often seek shelter under a car hood or in a wheel well to get warmth from a recently running car engine. Make a lot of noise when approaching a vehicle, and bang on the hood to announce your intent to start the car, allowing the animal time to leave before starting the engine.

Frostbite:  Frostbite can occur on ear tips, skin and the prepuce and vulva, if the pet is in contact with very cold ground, moisture, or wind. Frostbitten areas will initially turn white or gray in color and can become painful upon rewarming. Frozen or frostbitten areas should be rewarmed slowly with warm water and rubbing of the area. In severe cases, however, these areas can lose blood supply and may require surgical removal. The best way to prevent frostbite is to keep pets indoors during the cold weather, and limit time of exposure outdoors.  As a general rule, whenever it is cold enough for you to be uncomfortable, it is too cold for your pet to be outdoors.

Ice:  Like humans, pets can slip and fall on icy surfaces. Orthopedic and soft tissue injuries are common in the winter months. Use care when walking with your pet. Keep them on a short leash, and keep a cell phone handy, in the event that one of you falls and needs assistance. Paw protective spray and booties are available to increase friction on the ice and prevent snow and ice from packing in between footpads in the winter months. If you see your pet slip or fall, or if your pet suddenly becomes lame, seek veterinary care.

Winter/Cold Weather Toxins:

  • Salt/Deicer – Make sure that any salter/deicer you use is pet friendly, and will not cause irritation to the skin or footpads. Take care to place the bag(s) of salt out of your pet’s reach to prevent ingestion. Should your pet eat the product, call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control
    (1-800-426-4435) or the Pet Poison Helpline (855-764-7661) for advice.
     
  • Antifreeze - Antifreeze ingestion is, unfortunately, common in the Fall and Winter months. It is extremely toxic and usually fatal if ingested. Keep antifreeze locked up, away from your pet’s reach at all times. Keep your pets indoors, or allow them outdoors only when supervised and in a fenced in area or on a leash to prevent accidental exposure and ingestion. Antifreeze is very sweet and palatable. Ingestion of even very small amounts can lead to kidney failure and death if left untreated for even a few hours. Antifreeze solutions are usually bright fluorescent green in color. If you witness or suspect accidental ingestion or exposure, seek veterinary care immediately.

Ponds, Streams, and Swimming Pools:  Bodies of water do not always freeze completely, and, so, may not bear the weight of a pet walking along its surface. Keep all animals in fenced in yards, away from bodies of water, whenever possible, and whenever unattended, to prevent them from falling through the ice. If your pet falls through the ice, or becomes soaked with cold water, bring them indoors immediately, and dry them off with warm dry towels. Shivering is normal as your pet rewarms. Make sure that they have plenty of food and water available. Once warm, seek veterinary care immediately.

Don’t Be in the Dark:  During the winter months, sunlight is at a minimum. Pets that are walked, or are outdoors, before and after daylight, run an increased risk of vehicular trauma. Keep your pets on a short leash at all times. Both you and your pet should wear reflective gear to allow drivers to see you before it is too late. Carry a flashlight to enable you to see better, and to improve your own visibility when walking.

Snow Removal:  Make sure that excessive snow is not piled near, or allowed to accumulate, near a fence line, as it can become a route of escape for some pets. Electric fences can become broken or lose vital power, allowing your pet to leave the yard unnoticed. Check the power box and collars of your electric fence on a regular basis, to make sure that the fence and equipment is still functional.

Dogs in snow

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