Winter pet care tips | Pets

Winter is just around the corner and with winter comes some winter dangers for pets. Watch out for these winter problems so your pets stay happy and healthy until the grass grows again.

Keep pets warm when it’s cold outside

The common cold and pets sometimes don’t mix well. At the very least, make sure your dogs have shelter and an area to stay dry and sheltered from the wind. Indoor would be best, of course, but sometimes that just can’t happen. There isn’t a single temperature number that I can use to answer when people ask me, “How cold is too cold?” A dog’s tolerance to cold can vary just as it does in humans. Some dogs are used to the cold and have a thick fur coat. They will work well even in sub-zero temperatures, as long as they can stay dry and sheltered from the wind. It won’t be a tiny Chihuahua without fur and without tolerance to cold. Dogs that are used to cold weather do better than dogs that have not been exposed.

Avoid antifreeze and other poisons

Many people change the antifreeze in their cars in the fall and early winter. As a result, cases of antifreeze poisoning in dogs occur in veterinary emergency rooms when the mercury is submerged. Antifreeze is a deadly toxin that causes kidney damage, often irreversible and fatal. It can be treated, but only in the early hours of the morning after ingestion, before the damage is done. Thoroughly clean up any spilled antifreeze and keep containers away from pets and children.

Wipe your feet to remove the deicer

Putting deicer on the sidewalk outside of your home can clear snow, but it can pose a hazard to your pets. Make sure dogs are not running where you spread them and that they cannot get into the container. If they get a little on their fur paws, wipe them off before they get a chance to lick them off. Symptoms of a problem can include vomiting, diarrhea, low activity levels, and seizures

Pets need plenty of fresh water even in winter

Make sure the water supply does not freeze. A frozen bowl of water can quickly lead to thirst and dehydration. There are many types of commercial water bowls that you can buy from pet stores. Some have a heating element in the bottom, and there are also heated floors that can keep any old bowl warm and unfrozen. Make sure the power cords aren’t in a place where a bored puppy could chew. In my experience, the harsh weather and constant humidity means you’ll likely need to replace them every two years or so.

The need for calories increases when the mercury drops

Cold weather means more calories burned to keep warm. Make sure your pets have a supply of good quality food and keep track of their weight. You don’t want your dog to put on pounds to fight the weather, but you don’t want your dog to lose weight in the winter. Save the diets for spring and make sure your pup is getting enough calories to stay warm and maintain a healthy weight.

Dry winter air can mean coats itchy

Winter can be dry and uncomfortable for domestic cats as well. The dry air can lead to a dry coat, which can make it itchy. Make sure a humidifier maintains the correct humidity and that everyone is comfortable – maybe you too! Cats should be kept indoors in cold, wet weather. For those who need to stay outdoors, the same rules apply as for dogs. Outdoor cats need a place where they can escape the wind when it rains and stay dry.

With a little planning and a lot of common sense, you and your pets can survive winter and emerge like a fresh blade of grass into spring!


– Posted by Tony Johnson, ER Vet

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