Seasonal Pet Health Care Tips for Winter Time — Brrrrrr!
Just as we humans need to take precautions to keep ourselves snug in the harsh winter months, it is important to remember that our pets also need extra care to protect them – they are used to being inside just as we are, and not adapted to being outside in very cold weather for long amounts of time. Here are some simple tips that will keep our furry friends safe and comfortable when the mercury drops, even in sunny southern California! The tips are mainly very common sense. For our southern Cal pet parents, there are some tips that apply more to times when you might take your pets on a ski vacation, or if you happen to live in the mountains hereabout.
Keep pets indoors as much as possible during the cold winter months. Certainly dogs especially need to get out for walks. Putting sweaters on our canine friends helps, but sweaters are not enough to keep pets warm when it’s really cold for extended periods. Watch your pet, especially older or infirm pets — if you are cold, chances are good they are, too.
If you have to keep pets outdoors, be sure to provide shelter such as a dog house, and to insulate it. Hay is one good way to do this.
Pussycats gravitate toward warm spots, but sometimes these can be hazardous to them. Be sure to check under your car’s hood before starting the engine, and be on the alert for them in other outdoor spots that might be unsafe.
It sounds obvious, but it’s important to be sure to keep pets safe around the fireplace, heating coils and space heaters. Make sure their tails and paws are away from the heat source. When you leave the room, be sure to close the fireplace door or screen. And if you are going out for an extended period, douse any fire completely and put other heat source on at a low but healthy temperature to keep pets from getting too cold. Remember cats and dogs can upset floor-standing heating devices, so keep an eye on these to make them cat and dog proof.
During the cold winter months in places where there is snow, there are also snow plows putting down salt, and you may also be salting your porch, walk, etc. Keep your furry friends’ paws safe by cleaning the pads on the bottom when they come in from the outdoors with a warm, wet washcloth. Some dogs are fine with special booties that protect their feet from ice and chemicals when they are outside. These precautions also keep the pet from licking salt off their feet, which can hurt their digestive tracts.
If a pet has been exposed to cold has started to shiver and become lethargic, unresponsive, it could be exhibiting signs of what could be hypothermia, or a drop in body temperature to levels that are unhealthy. If your pet is showing these signs, wrap him in a warm blanket, with a hot water bottle that has been wrapped in a towel to keep it from burning your pet, and take him to the veterinarian.
Frostbite is another condition to watch for in places of temperature extremes. As the AAHA writes, “Frostbite happens when an animal’s (or a person’s) body gets cold and pulls all the blood from the extremities to the center of the body to stay warm. The animal’s ears, paws, or tail can get cold enough that ice crystals can form in the tissue and damage it. The tricky thing about frostbite is that it’s not immediately obvious. The tissue doesn’t show signs of the damage to it for several days. If you suspect your pet may have frostbite, bring her into a warm environment right away. You can soak her extremities in warm water for about 20 minutes to melt the ice crystals and restore circulation. It’s important that you don’t rub the frostbitten tissue, however–the ice crystals can do a lot of damage to the tissue. Once your pet is warm, wrap her up in some blankets and take her to the veterinarian. Your veterinarian can assess the damage and treat your pet for pain or infection if necessary.”
Our thanks to the AAHA, ASPCA and other pet care organizations for sharing this information.