Winter Wonder & Your Pet's Safety

There are few things in life as joyful as watching your pet frolic in the snow - bounding and burrowing.  But don’t let that furry jacket of hair fool you.  Our pets are just as susceptible to the cold as we are.  Playing outside in winter weather can be lots of fun but there are a few potential hazards that can put your pet’s health or life at risk.  

Here are a few tips that will help keep your pet safe this winter:

- If it’s too cold for you, then it’s likely too cold for your pet:  Just because your pet has a permanent furry jacket doesn’t mean he/she won’t get cold.  And the shorter the hair, the higher the risk.  If your pet has a long thick coat, he or she should be just fine for your walks and outside play.  But if your pet has short hair, you should consider a sweater for outside play and walks.  If you do provide a sweater for your short haired pet, remember wet clothing on a pet is the same as it is on a human.  It could make them colder just like it would for us.  If you notice your pet’s sweater getting wet, it’s time to head inside and get warm.

- Clean those feet: Now that you and your pet have had play time or gone for a walk, it’s time to check and clean those feet.  Especially if you have been in an area where chemicals for melting ice and snow are present.  Many of those chemicals are toxic and can irritate your pet’s feet.  And if your pet licks his or her feet, it could pose a serious health risk.  It is also important to remove any snow or ice that has built up on their feet and also their bellies to protect their skin and keep their paws from becoming cracked and bleeding.

- Speaking of Chemicals: Anti-Freeze and most ice melting chemicals are not pet friendly.  Anti-Freeze leaks or spills can be deadly to your pet.  Be sure to clean up any leaks or spills right away and if possible, purchase both anti-freeze and ice melt that are non-toxic.

- Wintertime is leash time:  When the ground is covered with snow and ice, it can be a confusing time if your pet strays too far from home.  All the scents they rely on to keep them oriented are covered up so they may have a hard time finding their way home.  Keeping your pet on a leash is the safest way to make sure they don’t lose their way.  As an extra precaution, make sure your pet has an identification tag on their collar and that they have been micro-chipped.  We all want to make sure our furry children can be returned to us should they lose their way!!

- Check under the hood: If your vehicle is parked outside during the winter, be sure to check your wheel wells and under the hood before you start it.  Many neighborhood cats spend a lot of time outdoors.  And there are often many stray cats that visit your neighborhood.  In cold weather they look for a warm place to shelter and that can often be in wheel wells or under the hood.  To protect them, please be sure to check your wheel wells and make a bit of noise by either tapping on your hood or sounding your horn prior to starting your vehicle.  

- Speaking of your vehicle: The danger of leaving a child or a pet in a hot vehicle has been well documented and receives lots of attention.  But did you know leaving your pet in your car in freezing temperatures poses a major risk as well.  Just like humans, pets that are young, ill, old or thin can quickly be put at risk in a cold vehicle.  So when you have to go out in cold weather, do your pet a favor and leave them at home where it is warm and cozy.

- REMINDER: If it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for them: (Yes, we're repeating this one because it's important...and we have a few more thoughts to share with you on the subject.) Remember that we said earlier that you should not to let your pet’s permanent furry jacket fool you.  Many pet owners keep their pets outside.  However, when cold temperatures set in, your outdoor pet should have a sturdy shelter that is above ground and has a thick coating of insulation like cedar shavings or straw on the floor.  Their shelter should also be positioned so the opening is facing away from the direction the wind normally blows. Finally, the opening should be covered with plastic or heavy burlap to keep the elements at bay. No pet should ever be left outside in freezing temperatures. Also, any bowls used for food and water should be plastic and not metal to avoid your pet’s tongue from freezing to their bowl. It bears repeating: If it’s too cold for you it’s too cold for them.

- Speaking of food:  If your pet spends a lot of time outside or lives outside, cold weather will cause them to burn more calories in order to keep warm.  Be prepared to increase their food intake a bit.  This is a time to keep track of their physical appearance.  You want to keep them well-nourished and strong but not necessarily fatten them up. If you notice your pet start to pack on a bit of extra weight, you’ll need to back off on their food a little to keep them in a healthy weight range.

Yes, winter can be a super fun time for your pets and by exercising these precautions; it can be a safe time as well.

Enjoy the cooler temperatures ahead!