Chilly temperatures, cozy fireplaces, and extra layers are all part of the winters we have here in Ontario. We prepare ourselves every year for this season by wearing our jackets, hats and mitts, as well as making sure our furnace or fireplace is working properly, but do you prepare your pets for the cold weather? Here are a list of things to watch for and ideas to keep your pets safe this winter season.
1. Frostbite: just like humans, animals are susceptible to frostbite. Be aware that tissue damage (especially on ears and paws) usually doesn’t appear until several days after exposure, so make sure they are dressed properly, or reduce the amount of time you have them outside. Basically, if it is too cold for you to be outside without a coat, it is too cold for your pet.
2. Hypothermia: To follow the above, body temperatures can fall dangerously below normal if exposed to the cold. Watch out for signs such as, decreased appetite, severe lethargy, shivering and discoloration of skin (red or black). Call your Veterinarian if your pet is experiencing any of these conditions.
3. Shorter Days: Dogs still need to go outside. With winter come shorter days and darker nights, For this reason, it is a good idea to get them (as well as yourself) some reflective gear, such as, leashes, collars or a coat to be more visible at night.
4. Antifreeze: Antifreeze is a poison that is very bad for our pets once ingested. The sweet taste of this common household item is what attracts them to it. so be sure to wipe up spills and keep containers out of reach. Also, make sure everyone in the house is aware of this poisonous substance to make sure it is always returned to it’s proper location. CONTACT YOUR VETERINARIAN if you suspect your pet has consume any antifreeze.
5. Protect their paws: Because of the icy nature of winter, it is very common to have salt on our streets and sidewalks to keep us from slipping. Unfortunately, salt can injure the pads of your pet when out for walk. Consider buying booties to protect their feet while outside.
6. Provide shelter: We don’t recommend keeping any pet outside for long periods of time, but it you are unable to keep your dog or cat inside during cold weather provide them with a warm, dry, solid shelter against wind. Many feral cats live outside throughout all of winter so consider building a warm, dry shelter for them out of styrofoam or plastic boxes. Tutorials for this can be found online.
7. Thermal Burns: During the cold weather you may have your baseboard heaters or fireplace on to keep warm. Just remember, cats love the warmth, so make sure to keep your feline friends at a safe distance to avoid burns.
8. Make some noise: A warm vehicle engine can be an appealing heat source for stray or feral cats, but is deadly. Check underneath your car, bang on the hood, and honk the horn before starting the engine to encourage these feline friends to get out.