Preparing Your Pet for Winter

Around this time of the year, we think about winterizing our homes, cars, and even ourselves! But what about our pets? The colder winter months and the busy holiday season can come with health risks to our furry family members. Let’s make sure our pets stay healthy during these cold months by using a few simple tips:

1. Antifreeze is a deadly poison! Antifreeze (ethylene glycol) has a sweet taste that many animals find irresistible. It only takes a small amount of this liquid to cause permanent and fatal damage to their kidneys. Always remember to wipe up any spills, and store antifreeze in a tightly closed container far out of the reach of pets (and children).

2. Temperature can be deadly! Wind-chill, combined with dampness, rain, sleet, or heavy, wet snow can be fatal. Pets should never be left outdoors unsupervised. Cold, wet, windy snowstorms often start quickly and unexpectedly. Short-haired, very young, and older dogs and cats are at the highest risk for problems related to exposure to cold.

If your pet must live outside, protection from the elements is critical. An insulated shelter that is elevated a few inches above the ground is ideal. Carpeting, blankets, or beds should cover the floor, and it must be big enough for the dog to stand up, turn around, and lie down in, but small enough to contain body heat. When situating a shelter, keep in mind the direction of the wind and face the door away from prevailing winds, and use burlap or canvas as a ‘door.’

3. Pet paws are delicate! Pet paws, like human hands and faces, are susceptible to frostbite. Remove caked ice from your dog’s feet as soon as possible. Any frostbitten skin may turn colour, and become red, gray, or white, with a scaly texture. If frostbite is suspected, thaw out the affected areas slowly using warm, moist towels that are frequently changed. Have your pet evaluated by your veterinarian as soon as possible to determine the extent of the damage.

Salt and other chemicals that are used to melt snow and ice also have varying effects on our pets paws. These chemicals can burn the pads of an animal’s feet, and then when the animal licks its feet to clean them, they are ingesting a toxin. Make sure you wipe your pet’s feet with a damp towel after any exposure to salt and chemicals to limit the harm done.

Written by Briarwood Animal Hospital