At Tej Dhaliwal Veterinary Group, your pet’s safety is a top priority for us. And although dogs and cats may seem well equipped to survive the winter season much better than we are, the truth is that pet hazards abound in the cold and extreme temperatures. Here are some ways we can watch out for our pets this winter.
Limit Outdoor Activity
Pets—even cold weather breeds with especially warm fur coats—are susceptible to cold weather hazards, like frostbite (tissue damage) and hypothermia (low core body temperature). Both conditions typically result from prolonged exposure to cold temperatures or frigid water. Both are serious and can cause lasting damage, and hypothermia can eventually lead to death.
- Signs of hypothermia include shivering, lethargy, weakness, cold skin and extremities, dilated pupils, and trouble walking or breathing.
- Signs of frostbite include pain, swelling, cold extremities, and pale, gray, or blue skin in affected areas.
To help keep your pet safer outside:
- Pay attention to your pet during walks. Stop and assess the situation if your pet starts limping, walking strangely, whimpers, or refuses to keep moving. It may be something as simple as snow or ice getting packed in between paw pads or ice-melting chemicals irritating paws, or it could be a more serious issue, like hypothermia or frostbite.
- Remember that just like us, pets can slip and fall on slippery surfaces. Steer your pet around icy areas during walks, and be especially careful with senior pets and those with arthritis, who may have limited mobility.
- Wipe off your pet after time spent outside, paying particular attention to the paws. Remove any salt, ice chunks, or balls of snow from between toes or stuck in the fur.
- Consider outfitting your pet with a sweater or coat, especially if he or she is sick, a senior, very young, thin-coated, or short in stature. If your pet tolerates them, booties can also be beneficial.
Call us right away if your pet may be suffering from frostbite or hypothermia! Both conditions need to be treated quickly.
Be Aware of Household Dangers
- Avoid using chemicals or salt to melt ice. These can burn your pet’s paw pads and can be deadly if licked off paws, out of puddles, or off the ground. Pet-friendly ice melts (deicers) are a far safer choice.
- Before starting your vehicle, always check to make sure your pet (or any neighborhood pet or stray animal) hasn’t taken refuge inside the engine compartment or under your vehicle. Make thumping on the hood part of your routine.
- Be cautious with antifreeze. Make sure it isn’t leaking from your vehicle, clean up any of the liquid that may have spilled, and keep storage containers out of reach of pets. Antifreeze smells attractive to many pets and is toxic to both cats and dogs.
If you think your pet may have ingested something poisonous, contact us immediately. During off-hours, you can also call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435 or Pet Poison Helpline at 855-764-7661 (a fee will be charged).
If your cat or dog is an indoor-outdoor pet or lives outside, you’ll need to provide him or her with protection from the cold and other winter weather elements:
- Start by making sure your pet has a shelter or house, ideally with an insulated interior and a flap that will help keep out snow, rain, and wind—and predators. You can build your own or buy a premade version.
- Make it cozy and attractive to your pet by adding straw or water-repellent blankets.
- Consider bringing your outdoor pet inside during extreme weather conditions (frigid temperatures and harsh winter storms).
- Keep your pet indoors if he or she is elderly or has a chronic medical condition.
Stay on Top of Medical Care
In the winter, some pets may be more susceptible to problems stemming from cold temperatures and harsh weather. Keeping a close eye on older pets, puppies and kittens, and those with certain health issues, such as arthritis, diabetes, hormonal conditions, kidney disease, and heart disease, is essential.
Make an appointment today with Tej Dhaliwal Veterinary Group so we can check your pet and make sure he or she is ready for the extreme Toronto weather that we all know is coming!
- Alley Cat Allies. Community cat shelter options gallery. https://www.alleycat.org/resources/feral-cat-shelter-options-gallery [aimed at helping feral cats, but the shelters shown will work for family-owned cats as well]
- Alley Cat Allies. Providing shelter. https://www.alleycat.org/community-cat-care/providing-shelter
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). Cold weather safety tips. https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/general-pet-care/cold-weather-safety-tips
- American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Cold weather animal safety. https://www.avma.org/resources-tools/pet-owners/petcare/cold-weather-animal-safety
- Aycock-Williams A. Dog hypothermia: prevention and treatment. https://www.rover.com/blog/dog-hypothermia
- Becker M. How to help outdoor cats stay warm and safe in winter weather. http://www.vetstreet.com/dr-marty-becker/how-to-help-outdoor-cats-stay-warm-and-safe-in-winter-weather
- Klein J; for the American Kennel Club (AKC). Can dogs get frostbite? https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/vets-corner/can-dogs-get-frostbite
All accessed January 10, 2020.