If you live in a place where winter is downright cold, you really need to be aware of the threats that are lurking when it comes pets’ cold weather safety. Even breeds that you may think are built for winter can face dangers if you don’t take steps to protect them. Here are a few cold weather pet issues that you should be aware of. I hope these will help you to keep your pet safe this winter!
Exposure to the Cold
Just like for humans, prolonged exposure to the cold can be extremely dangerous for pets, even for dogs with thick fur. Your pet being outside too long can lead to hypothermia, arthritis flare-ups, and even death. If the weather is cold, don’t leave your pet outside any longer than is necessary.
Never leave elderly pets or pets with arthritis or other health conditions outside in the cold alone. They could slip and fall or become way too cold without you even realizing it. Seriously – your pet could be in big trouble very quickly or even die.
Some of the products we use to melt ice and keep sidewalks and steps clear can burn the pads of your pet’s feet and can also clump between their toes. If your pet will wear boots, that’s ideal, because it’ll protect them from the salt and also help protect against frostbite. You can find a nice selection of inexpensive boots for pets HERE. If your pet won’t wear boots, then you should always wipe their feet when they come in from outside in the winter. I keep a container of baby wipes next to the back door for just this purpose. Keeping the fur on their feet trimmed during the winter will also help prevent ice and salt clumping. An even better idea, that you can at least use at your own home (but beware regular salt is being used elsewhere), is to purchase a salt that is safe for pets’ paws. You can purchase Safe Paw Ice Melt HERE.
Slipping on the Ice
It is important, even though it means we have to clean the salt off their paws, that we make sure our pets aren’t going to slip and fall on the ice. My miniature dachshund, Taz, fell on the ice on my back patio a few winters ago and seriously injured her back. It was terrible – she was in so much pain. I even had to sit on the floor and hand feed her for more than a week because she was in too much pain to lean down to get food from her dish. The X-rays and medical care cost me approximately $1,000 (pssst….get pet health insurance!) – but more heartbreaking was the pain that little dog endured because I failed to keep the patio clear for her.
Outside Water Supply
Remember when we were kids our parents told us not to lick anything metal during winter? And remember how we didn’t listen? My brother and I, along with probably every other kid in the universe, both got our tongues stuck on our metal sled when we were kids. (Oh come on – you know you did something similar!) ANYWAY, the same thing can happen to pets. So when you leave a bowl of water outside for them in the winter, use a plastic or glass bowl instead of a metal one! Also, either make sure the bowl is refilled often if it’s cold enough outside for the water to keep freezing, or else purchase a heated bowl. You can find a selection of these HERE.
I personally do a lot of walking, by myself and with my dog, during the spring, summer and fall months. But come winter, you’ll find me and my dog on the couch not only failing to exercise, but sharing all those wonderful, yummy, winter comfort foods. As a result, we both end up gaining weight during the winter.
Try to take your dog for walks during the winter as much as possible. Don’t go out when it’s way too cold, but if it’s manageable, put a coat on them and take them for a walk. It’ll do both of you good! Here are a few really cute coats for dogs on Amazon. (Look at my doxy in her winter coat – too cute!!)
I’ve had both dogs and cats over the years who don’t seem to realize when they’re sitting next to (or on top of!) something that’s getting way too hot. They’ll lie on top of a heat vent, sit directly in front of a space heater, or fall asleep in front of (and too close to!) the fireplace. If you have a pet like this, especially if they have long fur, make sure you check on them often to make sure their fur and bodies are not getting too hot. And be careful about space heaters – it’s not safe to leave them on when you’re not at home. If you must leave one on as the only heat source for your pet, make sure it’s in a safe place and that your pet can’t get near it while you’re gone.
Way too many pets have died over the years because pet owners don’t make sure anti-freeze is kept out of their reach. Anti-freeze is commonly ingested by pets because it is sweet-tasting. Make sure you keep anti-freeze off the floor and out of your pet’s reach. Don’t leave your pet in your garage by himself (there’s probably even more than anti-freeze in the garage that could be dangerous for him), and don’t let your pet drink out of puddles. If you spill anti-freeze, make sure you clean it up right away.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Carbon monoxide poisoning happens when your furnace or its vents have leaks. This is dangerous for humans, obviously, but can be even more dangerous for pets because they’re often left home alone for many hours while their owners are at work. Also, they’re smaller, so it wouldn’t take much for them to become seriously ill, faster. Make sure you own carbon monoxide detectors, and make sure they’re working (check the batteries!) You can purchase a carbon monoxide detector HERE.
Beware of Frozen Ponds and Lakes
If you’re in an area where there is a lake or pond, always make sure you keep your dog on a leash. It would only take a few seconds for your dog to get away from you and literally fall into a lake or pond. Even if the water appears to be frozen, it may not have a thick enough layer of ice to hold your dog’s weight. And not only is he at risk of falling through the ice, he could get too far out and not be able to get enough traction to make it back. (I could start crying just thinking about this.)
The Holidays – Tons of Dangers for Pets!
The holiday season, unfortunately, results in several hazards for pets. Here are some steps you can take to protect your pet during the holiday season:
Unplug Christmas lights and blow out candles when you’re not at home.
Make sure your pet can’t get tied up in or eat decorations.
Use garland instead of tinsel to decorate your Christmas tree, because tinsel can be extremely dangerous to pets if they eat it. It can get wrapped up in their intestines very quickly and create a very serious medical emergency.
Some plants, including holly, mistletoe and poinsettias, can be toxic for pets. That goes for the Christmas tree itself as well. These can cause everything from minor mouth irritation to serious intestinal issues if eaten by your pets.
Chocolate is toxic for dogs. Many other holiday foods and treats can be dangerous for pets as well, so make sure you keep these things out of your pet’s reach. Many pets have made emergency trips to the vet’s office on Christmas or Thanksgiving day because they ingested chocolate, turkey bones, candy, wrapping paper and bows…the list goes on and on. Just be aware, empty the garbage often, and keep stuff out of their reach. You can find out which foods are poisonous for cats and dogs HERE.
I Hope This Has Been Helpful
There’s nothing worse for a pet owner than to have something awful happen to their pet because we did, or didn’t do, something we should have to protect them. So I hope this article has helped you to know ahead of time the dangers your pet may be exposed to during the winter. For more information about winter pet safety, read my article, When is it Too Cold For Dogs? Debra ?
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