Keeping Your Pets Safe This Winter
Winter hats? Check. Snow boots? Check. Pet jacket? If you’re drawing a blank on that last one, or winter pet preparedness isn’t on your to-do list, this is definitely the article for you. When winter comes around, it also brings with it several unique health hazards for your pets, both of the feline and canine variety. While some seasonal dangers are well known, such as not leaving your pets out in the snow for long periods of time, others might be a surprise. Read on and find out what you should be keeping an eye out for and how you can protect your furry loved ones this season:
Winter Weather Sometimes Means Winter Hazards: Often one of the first signals that let us know the weather is in for a change is waking up to slippery and icy sidewalks and driveways. Deicing chemicals for sidewalks, salt and antifreeze all make their appearance once the temperature drops and often spell trouble for your four-footed pals. These perennial products may make life easier for home and car owners, but if they find their way to your pet, they can cause serious damage.
Salt and deicers, spread on sidewalks to cut the slick surface, can both scratch up your dogs’ paws and cause chemical burns if allowed to stay on the skin for long periods of time. If dog booties are not an option for you, always give your dog a quick wash with a wet towel or spray on their way back in to prevent redness, flaking and irritation to their sensitive skin.
Antifreeze, used to prevent cars from refusing to run when water starts to freeze, can also make a deadly appearance outdoors. When refilling the tanks, car owners can accidently spill some fluids on the ground for your dog (or any other critter) to come across. Many types of antifreeze are made with ethylene glycol, a sweet and toxic chemical that is tempting for pets and small children to lick. As this can mean almost certain death, suspicious puddles should be avoided at all times and pets should be monitored if you think they may have come across any. More recently, antifreeze has started to be made with propylene glycol, a slightly more expensive but non-toxic alternative. If you are in the market for some antifreeze this winter, try to search out the non-toxic alternative and mention it to family in case they aren’t aware of this danger.
Check in With the Vet Before Seasonal Symptoms Start: With falling temperatures, many pets start to show symptoms of health issues that were hidden when the weather is more moderate. Arthritis, skin sensitivities, and mobility issues all rear their ugly heads once the wind starts to blow and the cold weather stiffens joints and causes stress on aging bodies. While you should always bring your pet in for at least an annual exam, fall is a good time to complete this chore as your vet can keep an eye out for possible health issues that would worsen with cold weather. Once a health issue is identified, your veterinarian can also work with you to make a health plan that will relieve the majority of symptoms, keeping your pet happy and comfortable.
Fur Is Not A Good Reason to Leave Pets Outside: Except for specific breeds who naturally have a double coat of fur to protect them from extreme weather, most pets are not comfortable braving cold weather for long periods of time. While many people believe that fur gives pets a super power, enabling them to be left outside (or in cars) for long periods of time with no harm, this is not the case. Imagine your pets’ fur coat to be like a fleece jacket for you: you wear it in the fall to keep off the chill, in the summer it gets a bit too hot, but in the winter, it would be completely useless in keeping out the wind and frostbite. Keep all pets, even those suited for life outdoors, in a sheltered area where they can be warm, dry, and out of the wind.
Mental Health Is Important for Everyone: Winter can be the first time that your relationship with your pets is tested as it is the season when trips outside the house are cut short, energies are running high, personal space becomes non-existent, and holiday parties bring unexpected stressors to pets who may not be expecting it. One way to fight the holiday tempers is to create a private space for your pet to enjoy if they feel the need. A small, dark space reminds our pets of when their ancestors would dig dens for security and comfort, and will seek out these spaces for the same reasons.
To give your pet the quiet space they deserve, put a blanket over a crate with the door removed. If they already enjoy their crate time you can just use this space to make into their own private retreat. Stick a blanket that has your smell, a few toys, a bowl of water, and make it off limits to kids or visitors that might come by. Once holiday parties start going, your dog starts to feel overwhelmed, or you need some quite space, they will learn to go to their area to get away from it all. Your dog will feel more secure knowing they have a safe place in your house, and they will be less likely to invade your own (say goodbye to bed hogs).
Fight Off the Winter Padding: Many pet owners start to give their pets extra food during the winter with the idea that extra fuel helps them stay warmer and might create a protective barrier against chills with the extra layer. Despite your pets’ loving the extra portions, you aren’t doing your furry loved ones any good by bulking up their food dish. With extra food, most pet owners also take their pets on fewer walks, creating the perfect storm to packing on the pounds over the winter months. While five pounds isn’t much for you to worry about, if you have a medium sized dog or a cat, this can mean the start of increased risk for cardiovascular disease, respiratory problems, joint issues and other health issues (including a shortened life expectancy).
After a couple years of holiday gluttony and an inactive exercise routine, your pet can be consistently overweight with no chance of slimming down. Consider hiring a service, such as Crate Escape Pet Care, that takes over the walking schedules and cat play time that gets them out and about. It saves you from slipping about this winter, gets your pets onto a regular exercise routine, and can burn off the energy that would otherwise be taken out on your couch. This can prevent those extra pounds from taking hold and from your pet becoming a little bit too ‘fluffy’ from the extra tidbits.
By Lauren Pescarus