Winter is upon us. As the temperatures start to drop, there are some extra considerations we need to take to keep our pets safe and secure. Remember, even though our pets have a fur coat, they can be susceptible to cold and frigid temperatures.
It is important to keep in mind that if the temperatures feel too cold for you, it is probably too cold for your pet unless they are an arctic breed such as a Newfoundland or an Alaskan Malamute. So, keep your pets inside on cold winter days and nights. Pets can freeze if left outside in icy temperatures. If they do spend a large amount of time outside, pets trying to stay warm require a little extra food, as they burn extra calories while trying to maintain their body temperature. If your pet must spend extended periods of time outside, make sure they have an area that they can go to escape the wind and stay dry. When in the house, make sure they have a warm place to sleep that is comfy and away from drafts.
Wintertime can be hard on your pet’s skin as well. Their coats can dry out faster in the winter due to dry heat in the house. Make sure that your pets have easy access to clean water. Check their water bowls frequently, as they may drink more in the winter. Keeping our pets well-hydrated may help to reduce dry, flakey skin, which is more common during the winter months. If your pet has long hair, never have it shaved down to bare skin, as its hair coat is designed to provide warmth. Simply trim your pet to keep its coat tidy and free of ice or chemicals that can harm its skin. If your pet is short haired, consider providing a sweater or coat. Keep baths to a minimum, and when you do bathe your pet, ask your vet to recommend a moisturizing shampoo or topical conditioner.
In addition, exercising our pets takes extra planning. If the weather is icy, you might need to reconsider a long walk. Our pets (as well as us owners) can fall, slip, and seriously injure themselves in freezing temperatures. Black ice is especially hazardous, as it is difficult to see and avoid. Salt crystals and de-icing chemicals can irritate paw pads and skin. So, after each walk, wash and dry your pet’s tummy and feet. Many pet stores sell booties that can provide extra protection for paw pads and toes. If you use an ice melt product on your walkways, please make sure that it is pet friendly.
Antifreeze is a serious poison for dogs and cats. It has a sweet taste, and sometimes, pets can be attracted to it. It is crucial that you clean up any spills from your vehicle. If possible, use products that contain propylene glycol instead of ethylene glycol. Cats left outside will sometimes crawl up on a warm engine of a car in a driveway and be seriously injured or killed, if an unsuspecting driver starts the engine. To avoid this scenario, keep cats indoors during cold temperatures.
If we are extra careful, winter can be a fun, cozy time for all of our family members, including our “furry friends.”
As always, if any concerns arise, contact your local veterinarian or local emergency clinic. At VCA Calvert Veterinary Center, our veterinarians and staff are always happy to see you and assist your pets, but following the tips above may prevent any unexpected visits and keep you at home with your loved ones.