Winter Pet Care
The leaves are almost done falling for this year; and in some parts of the country, the earth is looking forward to ice, snow, and freezing cold temperatures. It’s that time of the year when the best thing to do is to snuggle up in front of a fireplace with a warm kitten on your lap or a puppy at your feet. But didn’t you forget something?
Before you enter the dreamy scene described above, take some time to learn how to care for your pet and how to keep them as warm and as comfortable as you are.
- Keep your pet inside. Don’t leave your dogs or cats outdoors when the mercury drops. If you have to take them out, stay outside with them. If you absolutely must leave them outside for an extended period of time, make sure they have a warm and solid shelter against the wind, thick bedding, and plenty of non-frozen water. A hot water bottle, wrapped in a towel will help your four-legged friend stay warm until you return, without burning their skin.
- Breed, size, and health. Some pets are better built for cold weather and can spend more time outside in the winter than others. Partly, it is common sense: long-haired breeds like the Husky will adapt better to the cold weather than short-haired breeds like the Dachshund. Cats and small dogs that have to “swim” shoulder-deep in the snow will feel the cold sooner than larger animals. Furthermore, your pets’ health determines how long they can stay out. Diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, and hormonal imbalances can affect a pet’s ability to regulate its own body heat. Young and very old animals are more vulnerable to the cold as well.
- Check your car. A warm vehicle engine will be appealing to outdoor and feral cats, but deadly too. Before you start the engine, check underneath your car, bang on the hood, and honk the horn to determine feline hitchhikers abandon their nest under the hood.
- Check the paws. Common cold-weather injuries and damages are cracked paw pads or bleeding, so if you notice a sudden lameness, check their paws as they may be injured due to ice accumulation between his/her toes. Clipping the hair between your dog’s toes might reduce the chance of iceball formation. Moreover, the salt and chemicals used to melt snow and ice can irritate their pads. Clean their paws with a damp towel before your pet licks them and irritate their mouths.
- Play dress-up. If your buddy has a short coat or acts bothered by the cold weather, go pet coat shopping.
- Prevent poisoning. Just like coolant, antifreeze is lethal for dogs and cats. Clean up any spills from your vehicle and consider using products that contain propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol. More information on animal poison control here.
- Car threat. During summer cars are known to a real threat to pets, but cold cars can also put at risk your pet’s health. In cold weather cars can rapidly cool down, becoming like a refrigerator. Young, old, ill, or thin pets should never be left in cold cars; never leave your pet unattended in the vehicle.
- Pet-proof your home. Remember that the heat generated by the space heater is as attractive to the pet as it is to you. As your fury friend snuggles up to the warmth, keep an eye out to make sure that no paws and tails come in contact with flames, heating coils, or hot surfaces. The little creatures can either burn themselves or knock a heat of source over and put the entire household in danger.