The holidays were mild over much of the country but the new year brought an arctic blast to some regions of the country. As folks are digging out of the snow and ice and preparing for more snow and frigid temperatures, we need to remember that our companion animals are particularly vulnerable to the bitter cold and numbing wetness of the winter months. They rely on us to keep them safe and healthy year round and pet parents need to take special precautions to protect their furry family members during the cold weather months.
The best protection you can give your pets is to keep them inside with you and your family when the weather outside is frightful. Dogs and cats thrive on human companionship and will be much healthier and happier this winter if you keep them inside and closely supervise their outdoor excursions.
Here are some “winterizing” tips for insuring your pet’s comfort and well-being this winter:
- Antifreeze, which has a sweet taste and is attractive to animals, can be deadly to pets even in small amounts so make sure to promptly clean up any antifreeze spills in your driveway or garage. Antifreeze is rapidly absorbed into your pet’s system once ingested and can quickly result in kidney failure. Contact your veterinarian immediately if you suspect that your pet has ingested antifreeze. To help prevent your pets from ingesting antifreeze, keep containers in a secure location and consider using a less toxic version of antifreeze (“propylene glycol”).
- There is a common misconception that dogs will be okay if left outside during the winter months. This simply is not true. All pets need adequate shelter and protection from the wind, snow and freezing temperatures. Don’t leave your pets outdoors unattended when the temperature drops below freezing. Pets that stay inside most of the time may find it difficult to adapt to cold temperatures. Pets can quickly develop hypothermia and frostbite. Ear tips and tail tips are particularly susceptible to frostbite.
- Many dogs, particularly those with short coats, will be more comfortable outside if they have a coat or sweater. Many dogs also need boots in cold weather, regardless of coat length. If your dog frequently lifts up his paws, whines or stops during its walks, it is probably because his feet are uncomfortably cold.
- Be particularly careful when taking older or arthritic animals outside. They will likely become stiff quickly in cold and damp weather and may find it difficult to walk on the snow or ice. Keep them close to your side when walking on ice to avoid a slip and fall accident. Ask your vet about medications and dietary supplements that will help relieve your pet’s arthritis pain. Don’t give human medications to your pets unless directed to do so by your vet since some human medications can be deadly for pets.
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