New England started off 2011 with a month full of snow storms and days with sub- zero temperatures. While most pets have the luxury of being indoors for this severe weather some are not so fortunate. When the temperatures are below zero degrees and the added severity of a wind chill is in the mix, it will not take long for a pet to develop frost bite and other life threatening illnesses, here are some precautions you can take to ensure your pet is safe this winter.
Outdoor cats should be kept indoors for the winter months which will require litter box training. Dogs should be walked briefly outdoors for bathroom "duties" to keep their routine and prevent accidents in the house. After walking your dog outside in the snow make sure to dry them off with a towel paying close attention to ears and paws. Remove any ice balls or sidewalk salt that may be stuck to their fur. Even side walk salt that is labeled as safe for use around pets can be irritating to the skin and paw pads of some dogs, to prevent irritation wash the exposed areas with a warm damp cloth.
Inspect your dog's toenails, make sure they are trimmed down to prevent them from getting caught and breaking on the frozen packed down snow and ice. Common winter injuries seen in the Veterinary Clinic are toe fractures and broken nails. This most likely occurs because the nails grow longer, faster due to inactivity. Trim your dogs nails every 2 weeks or as needed to prevent injury.
If you have a small or geriatric dog that does not have a natural long insulated fur coat, you should consider investing in a winter dog coat to help protect your pet and keep them a little more comfortable when outdoors in the winter time. There are also booties available for dogs that do not like to walk on the cold ground or dogs that have sensitive feet. Dog apparel can be found at your local pet food stores or purchased from many online vendors.
When traveling do not leave your pet inside a cold car for long periods of time, this will increase their risk for developing hypothermia. Hypothermia is defined as having a body temperature that is below normal. Signs of hypothermia may include: Uncontrolled shivering that does not improve in warm temperatures or with heat support, discoloration around extremities and/or cold extremities, stumbling or disorientation are just a few signs to look for. If you think that your pet is suffering from hypothermia you should bring them to a Veterinarian right away, as this is considered a life threatening emergency and requires immediate Veterinary Care.