This winter season, make sure you have the tools you need to keep your pet
healthy and protected through the cold months. Be prepared this year by stocking up on seasonal items as well as adjusting your daily routine to prevent injury or illness from wintertime hazards.
As a rule of thumb you should consider getting your pet indoors at 45° keeping in mind that wind chill can drop the temperature much more than what the thermometer may show. To prevent frostbite when your pet does go outside, consider a pet house made to withstand the elements. Make sure that your pet house is insulated and elevated off the ground or by placing your pet house on a pallet. You may also consider upgrading your pet’s bedding to create a warm space to cozy up, or accessorizing small and short haired dogs by buying them coats and sweaters to help them retain body heat!
Additionally, be sure to check that outdoor water bowls remain unfrozen throughout the day, being sure to break layers of ice that form on top and replacing water frequently.
Be aware that cold animals, such as pet cats, may seek warmth by curling up next to the heat of a car engine [source], which may lead to harmful or fatal accidents. Be sure to knock the hood of your car or check inside before turning it on to give any sleeping cats or animals the opportunity to escape before you drive off.
When walking your dog, it will likely pick up rock salt on its footpads. Left alone, rock salt will irritate your dog’s foot pads and they may become sore and cause them to lick their wounds. Do not allow your dog to lick its feet, which could cause diarrhea and vomiting. TO prevent this, make sure to wash and dry your dog’s feet after each walk. Additionally, trim the hairs between your pet's toes to minimize the amount of ice and snow it collects. You could also rub petroleum jelly on your pet's foot pads to prevent damage. Around your own home, consider using a pet friendly ice melt or removing snow and ice manually when possible using a shovel.
Apart from ice melt, your pet may come into contact with antifreeze. The taste of antifreeze is sweet and attractive, yet it is a deadly poison. If you are using antifreeze, wipe up any spills and keep it well out of reach. Better yet, consider using an antifreeze-coolant made with propylene glycol, which can be ingested in small amounts without causing significant harm.
The winter time is also known for increased ailments in humans - be sure that all medications being taken in the household to treat seasonal colds are secured and out of your pet’s reach.
With the decrease in humidity during the winter time, your pet may become more susceptible to dry, flaky skin. To help avoid this, brush your pet regularly, minimize the frequency of baths, and feed your pet a healthy diet; avoid extra oil or feed supplements unless your vet recommends it. Be vigilant, skin problems are most likely present when your pet has dry flaky skin, its skin looks sore or has open sores, is losing excess hair, its coat is dry and hair pulls out easily, and if your pet is nibbling and biting at itself.
Monitor your pet's ears, paws, and tail to check for signs of frostbite. Damage to your pet's tissues will not show up for several days, however, the affected areas will feel very cold. If you suspect frostbite you could try soaking the affected areas in warm water for about 20 minutes but do not massage the frostbitten area. Keep your pet warm and wrapped up and take it to the vet as soon as you can.
With a little extra care, you and your pets will be able to enjoy the winter season safely. For more information on pet health and safety, visit our How-To Library.