It's cold out there! Just as in the heat of summer, we do need to take care of our pets in the cold of winter- protect them from the elements. Each animal's weather tolerance is different, depending on fat stores, fur coat, and other issues such as arthritis which can worsen with cold weather. Animals with poor circulation due to other underlying issues such as kidney disease, Cushing's disease, diabetes, etc., can also reduce a pet's cold tolerance.
If it is too cold outside for you, it's too cold outside for them. Have your dog will wear a sweater or jacket when outside to help shield them from the wind. If you're going out for a walk and it is below zero, there are some great booties dogs can wear to help protect their feet from the cold. My dog will limp if she is outside in the cold because it hurts her feet. While she doesn't like having the booties put on, she is much more comfortable on the walk and doesn't limp during or afterwards.
If your pet isn't wearing booties, check between their toes and remove any snow or ice balls which may have accumulated. This will make your pet feel much more comfortable. Wipe their feet down after coming in from outside, to remove any salt or de-icer still on their paws. Road salt poses a unique hazard for our pets. Ingestion of these salts can cause major GI issues such as vomiting or diarrhea, or even neurological issues.
To reduce the risk of ingestion with your dog, use a dog friendly variety such as PetSafe Icemelter. This is a safer product since it does not contain salt, but instead amides which can cause some GI upset if in high dosages. Of course, try to avoid your dog getting into any of these products for their own safety.
Avoid ice, which could cause you and/or your pet to slip and fall. This is another situation where booties can be helpful in increasing traction.
Don't leave your pet alone in the car or outside for longer than 5 minutes in the cold. They become subject to hypothermia from the lower temperatures much quicker than we do, they have a much higher surface area to lose the heat from!
When going outside to start up your car, bang on your hood a few times. Animals can hide amongst the warm car engines during the wintertime, to seek out any heat. This may save a life!
If you're refilling any fluids for your car, keep your pets inside! Clean up any messes left behind as soon as possible. Antifreeze is very toxic to pets, causing fatal kidney failure if left untreated.
Ensure you have carbon monoxide detectors around the house, especially near the furnace or other gas powered appliances. It could save many lives!
Stay safe out there!
Dr. Kim Quinn
South Windsor Animal Hospital
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