Winter’s cold temperatures are settling in over New Jersey—are you prepared? Many pet owners mistakenly think pets are more resistant to cold than people, but pets are also susceptible to cold-weather problems, such as hypothermia and frostbite. Follow these tips to keep your furry friend safe this winter.
When temperatures drop below freezing, pets should go outside for potty breaks and short play sessions only. Some breeds, such as Siberian huskies and Newfoundlands, have thick coats and are more cold-tolerant, but these pets can also develop cold-related conditions. Remember to let your pet in promptly after potty breaks, and never leave him outdoors for long periods of time. No pet should be housed outside during extreme temperatures—if it’s too cold for you to sleep outdoors, it’s too cold for your pet.
When you are shoveling snow and ice from your walkway, remember to clear a path so your pooch can get to his favorite bathroom spots. Porches and cement can become dangerously slippery, so ensure your pet has a safe walking path. Take special care with older, arthritic pets with limited mobility who can be badly injured if they fall on slippery surfaces.
Ice-melt products containing sodium chloride and calcium chloride salts can be toxic to pets who ingest them. While it’s unlikely that your pet would purposely eat ice-melt crystals, he may ingest some as he grooms snow and ice from his paws, so use pet-safe products made from chemicals that are safer for pets if they do accidentally ingest some. After walking your dog through the neighborhood, wipe off his belly and paws to remove any chemicals he may have picked up along the way.
Although your pet’s paws contain his thickest skin, they are not invincible to cold weather damage. Paws repeatedly exposed to snow, ice, and salt products can become dry and cracked, so check your pet’s paws daily for injury. You can protect his paws with booties, or by applying a coating of a protective product such as Musher’s Secret paw wax. You should also keep the fur on your pet’s feet trimmed short to avoid ice from balling up between his toes.
Antifreeze containing ethylene glycol is dangerously toxic to pets who drink it. Unfortunately, ethylene glycol is a sweet liquid that many pets will readily lick off the ground if spilled, or if left within reach. Small amounts can cause acute renal failure, and unless decontamination treatments are administered within a few hours of ingestion, toxicity is often deadly. When filling your car, take care to not spill any antifreeze, and store it safely out of reach. You can also opt for pet-safe products that contain chemicals other than ethylene glycol.
Free-roaming cats searching for a respite from the cold often crawl under a car hood to curl up on the warm motor. When you unknowingly start your car, a sleeping cat may be hit by the fan and badly injured or killed. If your car is not stored inside a closed garage, and especially if you have feral cats in your neighborhood, bang on your car hood before starting the engine to give sleeping cats a chance to run off.
Like people with arthritis, older pets with stiff joints are often more painful during cold weather. Since arthritic pets spend much of their time relaxing, provide a thick, comfortable bed to ease painful joints. Resist turning the thermostat down while you are away, and keep your home at a cozy temperature all day long for your older pet. Also, ensuring he has an ice-free path to get to his favorite outdoor spots is particularly important. One of our veterinarians can recommend an anti-inflammatory medication that can help keep your pet comfortable during the winter months.
Unplanned winter disasters, such as blizzards and power outages, may leave you stranded or your home uninhabitable. Assemble a disaster kit to keep on hand, and include supplies for your pet. Pack pet supplies for at least three days, including:
We hope you enjoy a safe winter with your pet. If you have questions about cold weather safety, or if your pet requires medical care due to cold weather exposure, contact us.