Winter Safety Tips for Pets

Posted: 04/25/2022 | BY: Erin Cain | Categories:

Winter is a time of year when pet owners often worry about keeping their pets safe and healthy. It’s not always easy for pets to get the exercise they need and provide them adequate shelter from the cold weather. With cold weather, icy sidewalks, and busy streets, it can be challenging for your furry friend to stay safe. However, there are some things you can do this winter that will make your pet much happier and safer. Here are some safety tips to keep your furkids safe and warm in winter weather.

A happy dog in the snow.

Prevent hypothermia

It is essential to keep your pets warm during the winter months. Cats and dogs may have thick fur, but they still need protection from cold temperatures and hypothermia. Pets’ body heat can escape quickly in colder weather with insufficient shelter. That heat loss affects the pets’ ability to regulate body temperature. This situation is especially true for outdoor cats, small dogs, short-haired dogs and cats, young dogs, or pets who do not have much fur to depend on for heat.

Ideally, allow your pet outdoors only for short periods; for example, keep bathroom breaks between 5-10 minutes, so they are not exposed to the cold for long. If your pet begins shivering or becomes sluggish, seek out shelter or a veterinarian immediately.

Watch out for frostbite

While it’s best to keep your cat or dog inside, some pets spend the majority of their time outdoors, where they will require heated buckets and water bowls as well as draft free shelter. Even if your cat or dog enjoys spending time outside in winter, they do need a safe and warm location to retreat to when they feel cold. The shelter should provide warmth and insulation, so no pet is left outdoors in danger of frostbite.

Frostbite occurs when a pet’s body is exposed to extreme cold for too long, and it may happen on the skin, near the ear tips, and around the pet’s genitals. Areas that have frostbite will initially turn gray or white in color. Upon rewarming, these frostbitten spots can become excruciatingly painful. Warm up these areas by using a soft cloth and warm water to gently rub the affected sites. If the frostbite is too severe, these areas may lose blood supply and need to be surgically amputated.

The best way to avoid frostbite is to keep your pets inside when the temperatures are bitterly cold. Remember, if it’s too cold and uncomfortable outside for you, it’s too cold and uncomfortable for your pet.

A dog licks snow.

Beware of the ice

Pet owners should be careful when they walk their pets in the winter weather. Injuries from slipping and falling on icy surfaces are common, making soft tissue and orthopedic injuries common at this time of year. You can use paw protective spray or boots to increase your pet’s traction on ice and snow. Pet boots will also prevent ice and snowballs from sticking in the paw pads of your pet’s feet, causing them discomfort and pain when walking. Should your pet slip and fall or suddenly go lame, contact your veterinarian immediately.

A black cat walks in the snow.

Avoid winter toxins

Make sure that any salt or de-icer you use is pet-friendly and will not cause irritation to the skin or footpads. Place the salt or de-icer bag in a safe location away from your pet to prevent ingestion. If you believe that your dog or cat has eaten either of these toxins, contact the Pet Poison Hotline, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control, or your local emergency clinic.

Antifreeze ingestion is common during winter because it tastes sweet to dogs and cats. This product is a deadly poison, and even small amounts of it can lead to kidney failure or fatally poison your pet if she is not treated quickly enough with fluids or veterinary care.

Keep your pet away from any source of antifreeze. Watch out for containers inside the garage or any that has spilled on the driveway. Antifreeze is bright fluorescent green in color, making it easy to spot on the ground. Contact your veterinarian right away if you suspect your pet has ingested antifreeze.

Check your pet’s paws daily.

Your dog’s paws are delicate, and letting them walk around in cold weather with rock salt, antifreeze, or de-icer on their foot pads can hurt them. Be sure to wipe any of these chemicals off your pet’s paws when you get back from your walks. Should your pet lick or chew at her paws, she could ingest these toxic materials and become sick. Don’t forget to use a damp towel to dry the foot pads and remove any encrusted ice in between the toes and prevent cracked and painful paws.

Always check your pet’s paws for injuries or bleeding paws. If the cat or dog’s feet are chapped or cracked, use a paw balm, paw wax, or petroleum jelly to soothe and smooth the feet.

Avoid leaving your pet in the car.

While most pet parents know not to leave their pets in hot cars during the summer, some may not know that the same rule applies in the winter. Leaving pets in cold cars is dangerous because cars provide no insulation. While your vehicle may shelter your dog from the wind and elements, it does not protect her from extremely cold or freezing temperatures. Despite their fur, pets can quickly become cold and unable to regulate their own body temperature. That leaves a pet susceptible to hypothermia and frostbite.

While northern breed dogs like Siberian Huskies and Samoyeds can last a bit longer in colder temperatures, tiny dogs with short fur, senior dogs, and puppies are most at risk of danger if left alone in a cold car.

A retriever in the snow at night.

Be seen in the dark.

During the winter months, the sun is at its lowest. Pets that are walked or outdoors before and after daylight run an increased risk of involvement in car accidents. Keep your pet on a short leash to keep her safe from traffic while you walk with her. Wear bright reflective gear so drivers can see both you and your pet clearly and easily. Carry a flashlight or lantern or wear a headlamp for added notice and protection.

Have an emergency plan

Before a winter storm occurs, have an emergency plan and supply kit ready ahead of time. Your emergency kit should include items such as:

  • collar, leash, and ID tag
  • crate or carrier
  • water and food (for 6-8 days)
  • litter box or poop bags
  • medicine
  • toys, treats, and bedding
  • first aid kit

Winter storms can be fierce, and often power outages occur. Sometimes, your local government may declare evacuations. It’s essential to have an evacuation plan which includes your pet. Many public shelters and hotels do not allow pets inside, so know a safe place where you can take them before disasters or emergencies happen. Also, remember that microchipping your pet can be the difference between being reunited with them or losing them forever.

A cat watches the snow out a window.

Keep winter safe for your furkids.

The best way to deal with winter woes is by making sure your pets stay close. The happiest dogs get plenty of exercise but stay inside and enjoy all the love from the entire family. So go ahead and have fun this cold season while doing it safely!

Does your pet need a pet health insurance plan? Does pet insurance cover winter injuries your pet may experience this season? Yes, and yes! Prioritize your pet’s health and well being. Don’t wait for an emergency to find your pet. Let Pet Insurance Review find the best health insurance plan for your pet. Get a free pet insurance quote right now, and enjoy some peace of mind this winter.

 

References:

1. DogTime. (2021). Hypothermia in Dogs: Symptoms, Causes & Treatments. Retrieved from https://dogtime.com/dog-health/general/19237-hypothermia-in-dogs#:~:text=Hypothermia%20in%20dogs%20is%20an,can%20lead%20to%20several%20problems.

2. Veterinary Emergency Group. (n.d.). 6 Signs of Frostbite in Dogs. Retrieved from https://veterinaryemergencygroup.com/blog/frostbite-in-dogs/

3. Orvis Staff. (2019). How to Protect Your Dog in the Snow and Ice. Retrieved from https://news.orvis.com/dogs/how-to-protect-your-dog-from-snow-ice

4. Pet Poison Helpline. (2021). Antifreeze Poisoning in Dogs. Retrieved from https://www.petpoisonhelpline.com/pet-safety-tips/antifreeze-poisoning-in-dogs-cats-ethylene-glycol-poisoning/

5. Donovan, L. (2021). How to Make Your Own Dog Paw Balm. Retrieved from https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/lifestyle/how-to-make-your-own-paw-balm-for-winter/

6. Wardle, N. (2017). Can I leave my dog in my car during the winter? Retrieved from https://www.intermountainpet.com/blog/can-i-leave-my-dog-in-my-car-during-the-winter

7. Janisse, K. (2021). 25 Tips for Walking Your Dog in the Winter. Retrieved from https://blog.homesalive.ca/dog-blog/tips-for-walking-your-dog-in-winter

8. ASPCA. (2021). Disaster Preparedness. Retrieved from https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/general-pet-care/disaster-preparedness

 

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