Winter activities can be fun, but freezing temperatures and blustery wind chills can expose your pet to many dangers. Our Woodinville Veterinary Hospital and Mobile Services wants to ensure your pet stays cozy all season long, and we offer tips to keep your pet safe and warm when temperatures plummet.
#1: Keep your cat indoors
Typically, indoor cats have longer lifespans than outdoor cats, and all cats should definitely be kept inside during the winter. In addition to cold weather dangers, deadly situations can arise when a cat seeks warmth near a car engine.
#2: Limit your dog’s time outdoors
In severe weather, limit your dog’s time outdoors—especially puppies, small dogs, senior dogs, and dogs with a short hair coat, who are at increased risk for cold related health problems. Before you venture outside, consider dressing your dog in a sweater or jacket that fits well and avoids skin impingement or irritation.
#3: Monitor your pet closely around space heaters
Your pet can easily knock over a space heater, which can be a fire hazard, while some pets enjoy chewing on electrical cords and create problems. Never leave your pet alone when using a space heater, and ensure you turn off and unplug the device when you leave the house.
#4: Monitor your pet for hypothermia
When temperatures dip below freezing, your pet is susceptible to hypothermia. Your pet’s normal body temperature is 101 to 102.5 degrees, and they will experience hypothermia when their temperature goes below 99 degrees. A drastic drop in temperature can cause severe health complications if they aren’t warmed appropriately. Hypothermia signs include lethargy, excessive shivering, and pale skin and mucous membranes. Hypothermia first aid includes:
- Move your pet to a warm area, preferably inside.
- Bundle your pet in blankets that, if possible, have been warmed in a clothes dryer.
- Place a hot water bottle in the blankets to add warmth.
- Do not use water bottles or heating pads that are too hot, and do not place these heating tools directly on your pet’s skin to prevent burns.
- Seek veterinary attention immediately if your pet is nonresponsive or their temperature is below 95 degrees.
#5: Check your pet for frostbite
Frostbite is also a concern in cold weather. To preserve vital organs, the body shunts blood toward its center when exposed to freezing temperatures, which can lead to tissue damage on areas such as the nose, ears, tails, and paws. Signs include skin that is cold or painful to the touch, a pale blue or gray color, and blistered. Frostbite first aid includes:
- Move your pet to a warm area, preferably inside.
- Dry their coat, and wrap them in warm blankets.
- Do not rub or massage the frostbitten area or use hot water to rewarm the area.
- Seek veterinary attention to rewarm the affected tissue properly and help reduce skin damage.
#6: Create a pet emergency kit
Winter storms can cause power outages, and if roads are icy and dangerous, you may not be able to get out for supplies. When preparing for upcoming storms, ensure you have everything that your pet will need should you be stuck for several days. Your pet emergency kit should include:
- Food — Ensure your pet has enough food to last for at least three days.
- Water — Store enough water to keep your pet hydrated for at least a week.
- First aid kit — In case your pet experiences an injury or illness, prepare a pet first aid kit that includes bandage material, latex gloves, tweezers, bandage scissors, saline eye solution, antibiotic ointment, and cotton swabs.
- Medications — If your pet takes medication, ensure you have enough to last for a week.
- Litter — If you have a cat, ensure you have litter for at least three days.
#7: Never leave your pet in an unheated car
In the summer, warnings are rampant about the dangers of leaving your pet in a hot car, but your pet is also at risk in a cold car. When temperatures are chilly, pets left in an unheated car are at risk for hypothermia.
#8: Clean your pet’s coat and paws
Salt and chemicals used in deicing products can accumulate in your pet’s coat and on their paws and can be toxic if your pet ingests them while grooming. Wipe your pet down with a towel after outings, ensuring you remove all mud, snow, and ice, and small particles from between their toes and paws.
#9: Protect your pet’s paws
To further protect your pet’s paws, you can dress them in protective booties when going outside. Ensure you choose products that fit well and have sufficient traction to prevent slipping and avoid injury. If your pet won’t tolerate booties, coating their paws with balm will provide some protection.
#10: Protect your pet from antifreeze
Antifreeze commonly contains ethylene glycol, which can severely damage your pet’s kidneys. The sweet-tasting substance attracts pets to leaks, so ensure all antifreeze spills are cleaned up quickly and that these products are stored out of your pet’s reach.
Following these tips should help keep your pet safe this winter. However, if your pet exhibits frostbite or hypothermia signs, contact our Woodinville Veterinary Hospital and Mobile Services team as soon as possible, so we can determine how best to manage the situation.
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