As winter bears down on the Empire State, you bundle up before heading out, line your bed with flannel sheets, and sip hot tea to stay warm. But, have you thought about what you should do to keep your pet warm? Your furry friend is susceptible to cold weather hazards, including frostbite and hypothermia, despite their built-in fur coat. Our Helping Every Animal with Love (HEAL) team is here with tips to help you keep your pet safe and healthy through the winter.
#1: Limit your pet’s time outdoors
If you have a dainty Chihuahua, you probably have to convince them to brave the snow to head out for potty breaks. But, if you have a rambunctious Labrador, the snow probably does nothing to dampen their drive, and they will play outside in the cold for hours without realizing their body temperature is steadily dropping. You will need to be the voice of reason, and limit your pet’s outdoor playtime to short stints on cold days. A good rule of thumb—if it is too cold for you, it is too cold for your pet.
#2: Bundle up your pet
Before heading out for your daily winter walk, you layer on a coat, gloves, hat, and scarf. But, what about your pet? Their thin fur coat won’t withstand the blustery wind and falling snow, and should be supplemented with cold weather gear. Small pets and those with short, flat fur are most likely to become cold quickly, although thick-coated breeds are not completely chill-proof. Opt for a water-resistant, lined coat to keep your pet warm.
#3: Protect your pet’s paws
Your pet’s paws may be covered by the thickest skin on their body, but cold pavement, salt-covered sidewalks, and ice can take a toll on their feet. Paw pad lesions and injuries are common in the winter, so protect your pet’s paws before heading out for a winter walk. Booties completely cover the paws and offer the best protection, but if your dog acts like their feet are encased in concrete when they have them on, cover their bare paw pads with a protective layer, such as Musher’s Secret.
#4: Don’t let your pet eat salt products
A few pieces of rock salt sprinkled on a sidewalk equal a lot of table salt, and can quickly cause salt toxicity in a small pet. Although few pets will eat salt directly from the sidewalk or bag—aside from crazy Labs, who are known for eating everything they can get their paws on—your pet may groom salt from their feet or fur after walking outside. According to Pet Poison Helpline, salt toxicity signs include:
- Decreased appetite
- Excessive thirst
- Muscle tremors
Wipe your pet’s feet and belly after your daily walk, and keep their foot hair trimmed short to prevent them from picking up ice and salt. If you do have an indiscriminate pet who will eat anything, keep rock salt out of reach so they cannot get into the bag.
#5: Keep antifreeze away from your pet
While most pets are not tempted to eat salt, antifreeze products are another story. Pets willingly lap up the sweet, syrupy liquid that has leaked from cars or spilled during a fill-up. Unfortunately, many antifreeze products contain ethylene glycol, which is extremely toxic to pets. If your pet ingests ethylene glycol, they can rapidly develop acute kidney failure, which is lethal without immediate medical treatment. To prevent toxicity, never let your pet roam free, store all antifreeze products out of reach, and clean up spills immediately. Better yet, opt for pet-safe products that don’t contain ethylene glycol.
#6: Support your senior pet
Your senior pet may suffer from achy joints year-round, but the cold can exacerbate aches and pains, and winter can be their hardest time of year. In addition, older pets are not as good at maintaining their body temperature, and may become cold more easily. Tips for supporting your senior pet include:
- Keeping them warm — Ensure your home is warm and cozy for your senior pet. Instead of setting the thermostat to a cooler temperature through the workday, keep it at a more comfortable range.
- Providing support — A supportive orthopedic bed, rather than sleeping on the hard floor, will ease your pet’s creaky joints, so they feel refreshed after a nap.
- Easing their pain — Speak with our veterinary team about supplements and medications that can keep your pet comfortable year-round.
- Giving them a boost — Provide steps or a ramp to help your pet get onto your bed or the couch so they can access their favorite resting spots.
#7: Shovel a path for your pet
An icy walkway can cause your pet to fall, leading to a devastating injury. Older pets who are unsteady on their feet are most likely to slip, and can suffer a broken bone or ligament tear. To keep your pet safe, clear a path so they can safely get to their outdoor potty spots. If your pet refuses to go in the snow, cover a spot of grass with a large wood sheet or tarp, and lift it to reveal fresh grass for potty breaks.
If you have questions about choosing pet-safe antifreeze or the right coat for your furry friend, give our team a call. Everyone at HEAL wants to help ensure a safe and healthy winter for you and your pet.