Keeping your pet safe and happy all year long is a top priority. Summer safety gets a lot of attention due to the risk of heat stroke and paw damage from hot pavement. But the cold temperatures, ice, and snow that come with the winter months also pose a danger to your pet. Here are some tips for keeping your pet safe from Old Man Winter.
#1: Cold-weather walking
Keeping dogs indoors all winter isn’t an option, but long walks in freezing weather isn’t fun for anyone. Shorten walk distances as the temperature drops, and reduce cabin fever by encouraging indoor activities. Puzzle feeders, treat balls, and frozen Kong toys are great ways to keep your pet engaged and active while stuck inside.
#2: Paw patrol
Your dog’s feet are especially vulnerable during the winter season. During walks, snow and ice can accumulate between her toes and cause irritation, pain, or even frostbite. Salt and other deicing products are irritating to the paw pads, and toxic when ingested. Make sure to clean and dry your pooch’s feet thoroughly after returning from each walk. Alternatively, booties can be used to keep snow, ice, and toxic substances from coming into contact with her sensitive paws.
#3: Elderly considerations
Cold weather and winter storms worsen arthritis symptoms in humans and pets alike. If you have an elderly pet, she may require a little more TLC in the cold months. Provide her with a warm, soft place to sleep that is free of drafts. But, to prevent a fire or painful burns, avoid using space heaters or heating blankets. Snow and ice increase risk of slipping and injury, so it’s always a good idea to be with your pet when she heads outside.
Antifreeze poisoning is a serious and potentially fatal emergency in dogs and cats. Car maintenance, such as refilling antifreeze or windshield deicer fluid, should be done in an area pets don’t have access to, and spills should be cleaned up immediately. If you suspect your pet has ingested antifreeze, she must be taken to the nearest veterinarian immediately.
Normal body temperature for your dog or cat ranges between 100℉ and 103℉. Hypothermia is a drop in body temperature below normal. Symptoms and risk of complications from hypothermia increase in severity as body temperature drops. Watch for these signs:
- Stumbling or incoordination
- Dilated pupils
- Low heart rate
- Respiratory depression
Mild hypothermia—characterized by shivering and lethargy only—can be treated at home with gentle rewarming. Dry your pet off if she’s wet, and wrap her in blankets and towels that have been warmed in the dryer. Mild hypothermia that doesn’t respond to rewarming within 30 minutes, as well as more severe hypothermia, must be treated by a veterinarian, as serious health effects can occur.
Frostbite occurs when skin is damaged from exposure to extreme or prolonged cold temperatures. As the body gets colder, blood is sent toward the internal organs and away from the skin—especially the paws, tail, and ears. Signs of frostbite include:
- Pale, bluish, or grey discoloration of affected skin
- Pain or swelling of the affected area
- Development of red, inflamed blisters
- Areas of blackened or dead skin that appear several days after exposure
Dogs with certain medical conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease, have a higher risk of developing frostbite. Any pet with signs of frostbite should be evaluated by a veterinarian immediately.
#7: Skin issues
When the furnace kicks on, the humidity in your house plummets. The dry air causes itchy, flaky, irritated skin. Help relieve these symptoms by keeping a humidifier running in the room where your pet sleeps or spends most of her time.
#8: Essential oils
Essential oils are increasingly used in humidifiers and for cold and flu relief. Some essential oils are safe to use around your pet in low concentrations, but concentrated essential oils are toxic to pets when ingested or placed on the skin. Symptoms of toxicity include:
- Respiratory distress
- Liver and kidney failure
Diffusing oils in your home can be safe as long as your pet also has access to a well-ventilated area. If you use essential oils topically, wash your hands after applying them and cover any body parts that have oils on them to prevent transfer when your pet rubs against you.
Winter doesn’t have to get the best of you and your pet. Follow these simple tips to keep your four-legged companion safe and sound. Questions about winter weather safety? Call us today