Keeping your pets safe in winter:
One of the most important things to remember is that even though our pets have fur they still feel the cold. The rule of thumb is “if it is too cold for us to be outside for prolonged periods of time, it is too cold for our pets as well”.
Pets need special protection from extreme temperatures which includes warm, dry, draft-free shelter; plenty of food and lots of water.
As humans wear coats to face cold temperatures and coats for dogs can be useful. Cats generally don’t tolerate wearing coats and will try to get out of them which causes safety concerns.
Supervision of your pet outside in winter is key. Keep an eye on your dog’s pads. It doesn’t take long for snow and ice to freeze on their paws and cause issues. Salted sidewalks and streets are also cause for concern. The salt can actually burn the pads. If you decide to get boots for your dog make sure they fit snugg but not too tight. If they are too tight you risk cutting off the circulation and inviting frostbite.
Winter Safety for Very Young and Older Pets
Dog boots, cute coats, flashy collars, and leashes — these are all meant to be used with healthy, adult pets in winter.
Puppies and kittens as well as older dogs and cats shouldn’t be outside no matter how well-dressed. That’s because they just don’t have the fat, metabolism, or the full fur coat they need to stay warm when temperatures plunge.
When it’s cold or wet out, veterinarians say it’s vital to keep younger, older, and sick pets indoors.
Here are some considerations:
- Antifreeze is deadly to pets. It is thick, sweet and irresistible to pets. To avoid exposure be sure all antifreeze container are tightly closed and out of reach. Make sure your car doesn’t leak antifreeze.
- Walking your pets in winter ….get reflective and use reflective collars, leashes imbedded with LED’s. If you come to the Pet expo there are several options on sale. We use Head-Lites collars and they work like a charm. https://www.head-lites.com/
- Keep your pets away from all the holiday goodies and limit stress to your pet by keeping them in their safe space while people visit.
- Always bring your dog inside when the temperatures turn particularly harsh, the pros say. “If you wouldn’t want to be out in those conditions in just your clothes and a coat for too long, your pet won’t want to be either,” is our motto.
When the snow is deep and it is very cold, no one wants to go potty outdoors. How can you encourage your four-legged friend to go outside when the need strikes?
- Keep a small area in your yard free of deep snow and ice. Encourage your pet to use that area. Also clear a path to that area.
- Booties may make going out for a potty break or a walk much easier. They also keep the house cleaner.
- Keep the walks and potty breaks short. It is better to go several times a day for a short period of time.
- Applying bag balm to the pads helps protect the paws from the cold and salt.
Signs of Hypothermia and Frostbite:
When cats and dogs are exposed to the cold for too long, their body temperature — which is usually between 101°F and 102.5°F — can drop fatally. Here’s what you need to know as you keep a close eye on your pets in winter.
Hypothermia Symptoms in Dogs and Cats
- violent shivering, followed by listlessness
- weak pulse
- muscle stiffness
- problems breathing
- lack of appetite
- rectal temperature below 98°F
- cardiac arrest
Wrap your pet in a warm blanket or coat (you can warm blankets and coats in the dryer for a few minutes).
- Bring your pet into a warm room.
- Give your pet a solution of four teaspoons honey or sugar dissolved in warm water to drink. You can also put 1-2 teaspoons of corn syrup on the gums if your pet is too weak to drink. This provides an immediate energy boost.
- Place warm, towel-wrapped water bottles against your pet’s abdomen or at her armpits and chest, then wrap her in a blanket. Do not use hair dryers, heating pads, or electric blankets to warm up a hypothermic pet as this may result in burns or cause surface blood vessels to dilate, which compromises circulation to vital organs.
- Call your veterinarian immediately.
The best way to manage hypothermia is to avoid it. Always provide warm, dry shelter for pets when they’re outdoors.
Frostbite Signs in Dogs and Cats
Frostbite happens when a part of your pet’s body freezes. For cats, that may involve the paws, tail, or ears; for dogs, the tail, ears, foot pads, or scrotum. Severe winter weather, especially when windy or humid, can lead to frostbite. Watch for:
- pale, gray, or blue skin at first
- red, puffy skin later
- pain in ears, tail, or paws when touched
- skin that stays cold
- shriveled skin
- Apply warm (not hot) water for at least 20 minutes to the frostbitten area. Do not use hair dryers, heating pads, or electric blankets to warm up a frostbitten pet as this may cause burns.
- Handle the affected areas very carefully; don’t rub or massage them as you could cause permanent damage.
- Call your vet immediately.
It doesn’t take much to keep our pets safe when things get frosty. Just like us, our feline and canine friends need shelter, warmth, food, and care. When winter’s chill sends you scurrying indoors, don’t forget your furry four-footed pals and their simple needs this season.