Winter is a time to gather and keep warm, but it also means keeping your pets warm! Of course, when you think about weather safety with your pets, you can think about leaving animals in hot cars in the summer. But did you know that cold weather also poses a serious threat to your pet?
A fur coat does not mean a warm pet. Pay attention to your pet’s tolerance to cold weather! Hypothermia is an option for animals, so it is best to keep your pet indoors as much as possible. When you are outside, check your pets regularly, and if they are outside for extended periods, make sure they have covered shelters with plenty of food and water. Blankets and thick towels are a great way to help keep your pet warm after being outside.
While some hardy breeds with long, thick fur, such as adult malamutes and German Shepherds, can cope better in the cold, most breeds cannot adapt to the elements and need sweaters for isolation and limited exposure time.
Your pet’s skin – especially his ears, nose, foot pads, tail and all exposed areas such as his stomach – can freeze in as little as 20 minutes in minus degrees. If it’s too cold for you to be outside, it’s too cold for most pets. No matter the breed, puppies, elderly animals, those with arthritis or other frailties should never be out longer than necessary in the winter, according to the American Veterinary Association (AVA). According to the SPCA, the interior of the car works in cold weather like a refrigerator or a freezer, so it is not recommended to leave an animal in a vehicle.
Here are some simple tips you can use to protect your pet in this cool weather:
1. Protect your animals from exposure to freezing temperatures
In general, small pets, thin-haired pets, elderly pets with arthritis, and sick pets should be indoors when the temperature drops. Larger, thick dogs may be able to stay out in the cold longer, but even they need to get inside. If they are to be outside, they must have a completely enclosed space to enter. They must have warm bedding away from the cold soil and this must protect them from wind and moisture.
Animals exposed to cold, dry air, rain or snow may suffer from cracked paws and itchy, flaky skin. Without proper protection, animals can suffer from hypothermia, especially when the temperature drops below 20 degrees F. Here are some signs that your pet should be brought inside from the cold:
- Holder and legs up
- Looking for heat
- Slows down
- Lack of mental alertness
2. Watch for hypothermia.
Pay attention to your pets when you take them outside for exercise. Signs of hypothermia:
- Pale skin
- Strong shaking
- Difficulty breathing
- Low heart rate
When temperatures are below 45 degrees F pay attention to signs of hypothermia. Use winter gear if you can when taking your pets outside, especially dogs with thin fur, older dogs and smaller dogs. Bring a towel on long walks to clean prickly, irritated paws. After each walk, wash and dry your pet’s feet and stomach to remove ice, salt, and chemicals. Check for cracks in the paw pads or redness between the toes. And never shave your dog down to the skin in the winter. A simple trimming is ok.
3. Protect Paw Pads.
Pets can get severe paw irritation from extremely cold temperatures and chemicals in ice melting agents. To protect their paws, you can massage Vaseline or other paw protectors into paw pads. Boots are even better opaque and also prevent sand and salt from getting stuck between bare toes and irritating.
4. Keep your pets safe from antifreeze and ice melting agents.
Pets can be poisoned by antifreeze. Unfortunately, both dogs and cats are attracted to antifreeze and will often lick it up. If they lick up antifreeze, it’s an immediate medical emergency. Antifreeze can cause kidney failure and death in pets, even if ingested as little as 1 teaspoon. If you suspect that your pet has ingested antifreeze, bring them to us immediately. The sooner you get your pet to us, the better their chances of survival. Note: antifreeze containing propylene glycol is safer than antifreeze with ethylene glycol. In any case, thoroughly clean any spills from your vehicle so that there is no chance of poisoning. Be sure to check your car radiator regularly and repair leaks immediately. Do not let your pet roam around where they may have access to antifreeze.
Anti-frost poisoning stages:
Scene 1 (occurs 30 minutes to 12 hours after ingestion): The animal will have difficulty walking or may stagger (equivalent to alcohol poisoning), euphoria or delirium, vomiting, seizures and excessive thirst and urination.
Stage 2 (occurs within 12-24 hours after ingestion): This stage can be misleading. The symptoms at this point may seem to go away, but severe kidney damage progresses. In any case, you do not want to wait until this stage to bring your pet to a vet. And realize that even if the symptoms subside, they will get worse and your pet will drop to step 3.
Stage 3 (occurs in cats within 12 to 24 hours after ingestion and dogs within 36 to 72 hours): Severe acute renal failure occurs. Symptoms may include loss of appetite, lethargy, weakness, salivation, bad breath (due to kidney failure), vomiting, diarrhea, rapid pulse, depression, seizures, fainting, and coma.
Ice melting agents
If your pet eats snow or drinks a small amount of melted snow that contains ice-melting agents, it can irritate the mouth. If they swallow enough, it can be very toxic to them. The chemicals in ice melting agents cause an electrolyte imbalance and can result in seizures, increased heart rate and death. If a pet develops salivation, vomiting, seizures or other symptoms, get them to us right away.
If there are outdoor cats or dogs, either owned pets or community cats or dogs in your area, remember that they need protection from the items as well as food and water. It’s easy to give them hands.
If you encounter a pet left in the cold, politely let the owner know that you are concerned. Some people really do not know the risks that cold weather poses to their pets or pets and will be quick to correct the problems you solve.
At low temperatures, small, elderly or sick pets should be kept indoors. If your pet needs to go out, protect their paws from the cold and wipe their fur and paws with a dry cloth when they get inside. If you can not get your animals inside, give them an enclosed space to keep warm. Beware of toxic hazards from antifreeze and ice-melting products. If you have pets, protect them from severe colds, especially newborns and young animals. Ideally, in cold colds, you have an enclosed space to keep your pets warm. If not, they should be fitted with a windbreak of some kind and monitored to prevent hypothermia and frostbite. If you have feral cats in your area that have no shelter, it does not take much to give them some shelter to protect them from the cold.