Winter is here, which means that you will have to take extra precautions for you and your pet. The cold weather and icy conditions are just the beginning of a number of winter hazards that your dog or cat should avoid in order to prevent injuries and other health problems. To ensure your pet will have a safe and enjoyable winter, please read through the list below:
Cold weather is the primary winter hazard that you should be careful of during the winter months. If it’s an extra cold day, make sure to keep your walks shorter to limit the amount of time outdoors. It’s also a good idea to buy some winter clothing for your dog! Not only is a bundled pup super cute and Instagram-worthy, a jacket and winter boots are also great for retaining their body heat and keeping them warm. You should also avoid walking your pup on icy roads to prevent slipping – falls can easily cause injuries and broken bones.
Additionally, if you have an outdoor cat, make sure that your cat can come back inside when she wants to so that she isn’t in the cold longer than she would like. You might also want to prevent them from going outside altogether if the forecast is too severe. Prolonged exposure to frigid temperatures puts your pet in danger of hypothermia and frostbite.
Along with the cold temperatures, winter also brings icy streets and sidewalks. Salt is very commonly sprinkled on the ice to prevent slipping and falling. However, while it prevents dangers for humans, this salt is another winter hazard. If your dog walks on the salt, it can hurt their paws or get trapped between the pads, causing irritation. Your dog might lick the salt, often to soothe their irritated paws but possibly right off the street as well, and this can cause a high blood sodium concentration. This can lead to thirst, lethargy, vomiting, and kidney damage, depending on how much was ingested (even a small amount can cause problems). Be sure to guide your dog away from the salted areas on your walk and wash their paws after a walk if you think they might have come into contact with it. Having them wear little dog boots is also a great way to avoid this hazard!
If you’re located in Seattle like we are, you will also have to be aware of how rainstorms can affect dogs and outdoor cats! If you have to walk your dog in the rain, make sure they aren’t exposed to the elements for too long. A waterproof raincoat will help keep your dog dry, and you should make sure to dry them down with a towel after getting caught in the rain. If they are left wet and cold for too long, they can get pneumonia, especially if they are relatively young or old (or if their immune system isn’t strong). You should also make sure not to allow your dog to drink from puddles as there can be harmful bacteria and toxins in the water. Lastly, be sure that your outdoor cat has access to a shelter, so they know they have somewhere to hide if it does suddenly start downpouring.
For cat owners with a cat that enjoys exploring the great outdoors on their own, be sure to take extra caution with your vehicle. Cats are known for seeking a heat source by hiding under car hoods near the engine. If you, or your neighbors, have outdoor cats, be sure to check your car before starting it. You can honk the horn or bang on the hood so that they will have time to escape if there is a hiding cat. Otherwise, the cat could be critically injured when the car is started.
Another car-related hazard pet owners might encounter the antifreeze used to help regulate the engine’s temperature. While this is an essential part of car maintenance in the winter, it is poisonous if your pet comes into contact with it. Be sure to store antifreeze in a well-sealed container and clean up any spills or leaks immediately and thoroughly.
Pets often find antifreeze quite tasty, so it isn’t unreasonable that they would lick it up if they have access to it. However, it is very toxic, and even small amounts of antifreeze can be fatal for cats and dogs. If your cat or small dog steps in antifreeze and licks their paws, or if your medium-sized dog laps up about five tablespoons of the substance, they can ingest enough of it to cause death. Your pet might stagger around, have seizures, and vomit, then they might appear to feel better but will get much worse as their kidneys fail. If you think your pet has come into contact with antifreeze, you should contact your veterinarian right away.
Arthritis, the degeneration of cartilage between joints, is always an uncomfortable and often painful condition for a pet to have, and it can become quite a bit worse during the winter months. Cold weather worsens your arthritic pet’s pain and stiffness, just like it does in humans. This could be because of a change in barometric pressure, a decrease in activity, or an increase in nerve sensitivity – the cause for arthritic worsening in winter is actually unknown – but should still be taken seriously and managed accordingly.
If your cat or dog is arthritic, be sure to keep them warm with a sweater or jacket. Your pup might appreciate even wearing it inside as well, to protect from any drafts. They should also have a comfortable bed for resting, especially if you can get one with support, created specifically for older, arthritic dogs. It’s important that your dog keeps moving so that their joints stay lubricated because too much lying around can increase stiffness. Your dog might also be unable to jump, so make sure you can lift them or have a ramp available for situations like getting up on a bed or into a car.
Other Pet Winter Hazards
It gets dark a lot earlier in the winter than it does in the summer, so chances are you are often walking your dog in the dark. If this is the case, it is important to take precautions against accidents. Make sure that both you and your pup are visible to drivers. This visibility is important on rainy days as well – when there is a downpour, it can be tough for drivers to see people or animals on the road. You can do this by attaching a blinking light to your dog’s collar, having reflective clothing for both you and your dog, and holding a flashlight or wearing a headlamp.
If you let your dog off-leash, you should also make sure that there are no bodies of water in the vicinity. Ponds, lakes, and streams might not be entirely frozen over, and your dog could easily fall into the icy water.
Your pet won’t always know what’s best for them, so it’s especially important that you watch out for these hazards during the winter months. Avoiding icy patches, extreme cold, and poisonous household products are just a few ways that you can make sure your pet stays happy and healthy until springtime! Contact us if you have any questions.