The mild weather in the first part of this winter may have lulled us into a false sense of security, but now the cold weather is here and with it come winter hazards for our pets.
The most obvious of these is sub-zero temperatures and the risk of cold exposure, frost-bite and freezing. Because cats and dogs regulate their temperature differently than we do (panting rather than sweating) and have thick fur coats, it is easy to assume that they will be fine outside. Temperatures can change quickly in the dead of winter and day time highs can be deceptively different from night time lows. Ensuring limited exposure to these temperatures is important for all animals that spend a significant amount of time outdoors. Wind-chill can also be a huge factor in cold exposure for animals, decreasing the temperature by as much as 15 degrees on windy nights. Providing insulated shelter for outdoor animals will significantly reduce this hazard. If this is not possible, consider making arrangements to bring animals indoor on the coldest winter nights. Awareness is the key to keeping our pets safe. Check the temperature & forecast and adjust the amount of time your animals spend outdoors accordingly
Antifreeze is a common winter toxin; antifreeze has a sweet taste and can be easily consumed by animals at any time of the year, but it’s use is more prevalent in the winter months. The toxin forms crystals within the kidneys and even small volumes can cause irreversible kidney damage to pets. Careful storage and cleanup is needed with this dangerous chemical.
Salt on the roads mean salt exposure for pets. Many dogs walked on salted roadways will suffer irritation from the high concentrations of salt on their feet or on the sensitive skin between their toes. Licking affected feet after walking can also mean that the pets ingest the salts and this can lead to vomiting, diarrhea or other gastrointestinal upset. Avoiding salted roadways, cleaning feet after time outdoors or the application of foot coverings (Doggie Boots) can all help.
Winter can be cold and long, and we all have to go out in it (including our pets). With some fore-sight and planning we can all enjoy the cold months ahead and stay safe.
For more information, please see this article from the New Hamburg Veterinary Clinic website.