With winter in our midst throughout the country and many of us seeing freezing temperatures, I think it’s necessary to keep certain things in mind when caring for our pets. There are many factors which can pose problems and dangers to dogs and cats such as snow, below freezing temperatures, cold wind, ice, antifreeze, rock salt and even our own vehicles. These members of our family need special attention during the colder months in order for them to have optimal health, be comfortable and stay safe. Let’s make sure that they are kept out of harm’s way.
If you happen to have cats that are occasional outdoor explorers, I highly suggest that you keep them indoors during the winter because they can certainly get into a lot of trouble if left to wander when it’s inhospitable outside. Dogs also need to be protected from extreme conditions during the season. Don’t think that just because they have fur that they are protected and can withstand the weather better than we can. The way I see it, if you feel cold while outdoors then your pets will also feel cold.
Our cats, Lion and Mistress, are not outside cats ever, but I still make sure that indoor conditions for them are comfortable and pleasant at all times. Here’s what you should consider if you have a household with pets. These are tips for dogs as well as cats.
1. If you are having your dog groomed during the winter, it’s best to keep their fur intact throughout the season for that added protection and not have it cut down to the skin. Even if your pets are kept indoors at all times, it’s necessary for them to have their fur in order to keep warm.
2. Walking your dog or letting them out to do their business is certainly fine if you keep them supervised and not leave them out for any extended period of time. Remember, below freezing temperatures and wind chill factors can quickly turn into a frostbite or hypothermia situation with dogs; frostbite isn’t always detected right away (it may take days for it to show). Dogs should always be leashed when going out in the winter because they can quickly lose their scent and get lost if they wander off on their own.
3. Paws should to be protected from snow, ice and rock salt. Keep a bowl of water by your doorway and a clean towel to wipe down paws (and fur, especially in the belly area) as soon as you come in from the outdoors. Simply dip their paws one at a time into room temperature water and wipe them dry with a clean towel. If a dog licks that salt before you’ve had a chance to wipe it, it can cause stomach swelling and other problems. Snow or ice that isn’t removed can cause the paw to split, crack and even bleed. Stepping on other chemicals, solutions (think antifreeze) without your knowledge can also be dangerous for dogs. This is why it’s essential to remove any residue and snow or ice from their paws. If your dog can stand it, try using special dog booties when going outdoors so that their feet are protected and insulated.
4. Antifreeze (with ethylene glycol) is toxic and can poison dogs very quickly. So don’t let them wander around parked cars or in the garage or driveway. If you suspect that your dog has accidentally ingested antifreeze, seek immediate medical attention.
5. Garages are not suitable areas for dogs to be kept in during the winter. A dog should be allowed to be indoors even if you must cordon off certain rooms.
6. Puppies feel the cold much worse than a full grown dog, so keep in mind that they will need extra protection from the cold. If you’re housebreaking a puppy, have them do their business on newspaper rather than keeping them outdoors until they do. Once the weather lets up, you may resume the training.
7. Older dogs, dogs with heart problems, diabetes, kidney disease and other imbalances can make it difficult for them to regulate body heat, so keep this in mind if your dog has special needs.
8. While indoors, dog beds should be kept in a warm area of the house that is free of drafts. Keep your doggie comfortable!
1. Kitty cats should be kept indoors during the winter because they can quickly begin to suffer the effects of cold temperatures.
2. It’s often the case that cats who are left to wander outdoors during the winter will quickly seek a warm spot. Unfortunately that place will more than likely be the turned off engine of a parked car. This is very dangerous for them as they can be injured or killed by a moving fan belt. If you suspect your cat or a neighborhood cat is outdoors, make sure you pound on the hood of your vehicle before you start it to alert them. Avoid any mishaps!
3. Cat beds should also be kept near a warm spot that is free of drafts. Be aware of space heaters, radiators or other heat sources (yes fireplaces too!) which can be dangerous for cats as well as dogs. Make sure you keep an eye on your pets so that they don't catch fire, get burned or injured.
If you must travel with your dog or cat to the vet, or some other destination, make sure the car is heated and under no circumstances should you leave your pet unattended in a turned off car. A parked car can quickly turn into a refrigerator and be lethal to your dog or cat.
Pets who do go outdoors for any length of time should have collars with appropriate tags at all times. If you live near a lake, pond, stream or river, do not allow your dog to wander onto ice, because it may not be secure. Again, keep your dog on a leash at all times when you do take him or her out and as soon as you begin to feel cold and uncomfortable, take your pooch inside.
Keep your pets safe this winter!