Keep Your Pets Warm this Winter!
Cold weather is here! Along with the chilly temperatures come new safety concerns for your pets. Just like you, pets are susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia. Luckily, many of the simple safety measures you take for yourself apply to your pets as well! Here are some tips to help keep your pet toasty and healthy this winter.
1. Limit your pet’s time outside. It is a good idea to shorten daily walks and to never leave your pet unattended outdoors. Your pet’s tolerance to the cold is dependent upon hair coat, body fat stores, activity level, and general health. Even pets with thicker hair coats can become chilled with time; their ears, paws, and nose are exposed to the cold air.
2. Make an appointment with your veterinarian for your pet’s yearly preventative care exam. Smaller dogs, puppies, and geriatric pets are especially susceptible to the cold. As the weather turns colder it may worsen some medical conditions. Pets with arthritis often become stiffer in the cold and may slip and fall more easily in icy conditions. Pets with diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, or hormonal imbalances may have less ability to regulate their body temperature in the cold.
3. Dress your pet warmly when appropriate. There are sweaters, coats, and booties available at many retail stores for both dogs and cats.
4. Wipe your pet’s paws when he comes inside to remove any ice, snow, salt, or chemicals such as antifreeze. Routinely check paw pads for injuries that may be caused by ice or snow. Keep the hair between toes clipped short to avoid ice buildup.
5. Never leave your pet alone in the car. Cars can be just as deadly to your pet in the winter as they are in the summertime. The temperature in a car cools down fast and can become like a refrigerator when the engine is off. Also, cats often find shelter in a car’s warm engine or on the tires to get off the frozen ground. Bang on the hood of your car and check your tires before starting your vehicle.
6. Remember to keep home safety in mind. Be cautious with space heaters. They pose the risk of burning your pet or may easily get knocked over. Heating pads that are available for pets may also potentially cause burns. Toxic chemicals, such as antifreeze, should be stored in a place that your pet can’t gain access to. It is important to clean up any spills immediately. Antifreeze has a sweet taste, but it is toxic to dogs and cats.
7. Microchip your pet (if they aren’t already). Dogs and cats are more apt to become lost during the winter months because the cold weather and/or snow can hide many of the scents that would normally help them find their way home.
8. Be careful near bodies of water that have iced over because the ice may not be thick enough to support your pet’s weight. If he does accidentally fall in than you should call for help rather than going in after him and risking your own life as well.
9. If a pet must be left outside alone for any length of time than you should provide an outdoor shelter for their safety. This is also a good idea for outdoor or feral cats. Outdoor shelters should have a raised floor, dry shavings or straw, and a covered doorway that protects against the wind. Make sure to leave food and an unlimited supply of fresh (non-frozen) water.
10. Recognize problems. Signs of hypothermia include:
-Weakness, slow or stopped movement
-Ice formed on body
-Anxious behavior or whining
Signs of frostbite take longer to appear. Painful, pale areas on the body are something to watch for.
If you see signs of either of these problems in your pet, cover him in a blanket and call your veterinarian right away.