Doesn’t it seem like everything gets a little more challenging in the winter months. Our cars start harder, the footing becomes slippery, we keep layering on sweaters, jackets, boots and it is dreary more than sunny.  Winter definitely presents a unique set of challenges.

For pets, which rely on us for their safety and comfort, the winter months can be especially hazardous, sometimes even deadly.  Fortunately there are steps we can take to make winter safer for our pets.

  • Bang on the hood before starting your car on cold winter days.  A warm engine is like a magnet to cats when it’s cold.  Many suffer serious damage when caught in a moving fan belt.  One perfect example is “Faceless Kitty’ aka “Jacks” who was a victim of a horrific fan belt injury.  “Jacks” survived with intensive care.  Not every cat does.
  •   Resist the urge to warm up your car in a closed garage.  If you keep your pets in the garage during the cold months, be careful. Carbon monoxide can build up quickly in an enclosed space and will rapidly overcome dogs and cats.
  •  Be careful not to leave pets outdoors too long in freezing temperaturesHypothermia and frostbite are a common winter problem. Ears and feet are particularly vulnerable to frostbite. Keep in mind that cold that never affected your 6 year old pet may cause rapid hypothermia in a 10 or 12 year animal and short coated breeds are always susceptible to cold weather.  Many pets need blanketing to stay warm.  The truth is few are really made to live outdoors. We have bred that out of them.  Even large double coated northern breeds require an insulated dog house and unfrozen water to survive life outdoors. Finally, while we all like to think cats are indestructible and are not bothered by the cold.  It’s not true, they are.
  • Aches and pains are worse in the cold.  Cold can aggravate arthritis and old injuries.  Keep a close eye on older pets during the winter.  If you see signs of increased stiffness and discomfort, it may be time to introduce products such as Cosequin, Dasuquin and non steroidal inflammatory medications to their winter maintenance routine. 
  •  Antifreeze is deadly.  Yes, many manufacturers have added bitter agents to their product which is wonderful, just remember, not all of them have.  Always dispose of products properly and if you suspect exposure get your pet to the veterinarian immediately. 
  •  Salt and other de-icing chemicals irritate paws and tummies.  Try to avoid walking your pet on salty walks but if you must, be sure to clean sensitive paws once you get home.
  •  Ice can slice open fragile toe pads.  We treat our share of pad injuries at Animal Family.  Freezing weather can make ice shards sharp as a knife.  Boots can be protective to those pets who tolerate them. 
  •  Thin ice on ponds and rivers can be deadly.  Every winter we see heart wrenching news coverage of people and animals that have fallen through the ice.  In our area, where temperatures can vary from the teens to the thirties and higher in a single week, thin ice is a real risk.  Just add this to the many reasons you should keep your pet on a leash.
  •  Don’t forget inside hazards.  Fireplaces and space heaters can cause severe burns in a matter of seconds.  Just like children, pets need to be kept a safe distance from open flames.

 Yes, winter can be a challenging time of year.  The good news is that by remaining aware of the hazards it presents we can keep our pets happy, healthy and ready for spring.