Although winter is tightening its grip, you can still safely enjoy chilly outdoor activities with your four-legged friend. But you must take care to ensure your pet remains safe and comfortable, and to avoid hypothermia, frostbite, toxin exposure, and other winter hazards. Follow our six tips to safely rejoice in a winter wonderland with your furry friend.
#1: Keep your pet away from hazardous chemicals
Summer fertilizers and pesticides may be stored high on garage shelves during the winter, but the new seasonal chemicals that make icy conditions safe for people, such as antifreeze, windshield deicer, and ice melt, can put pets in peril. Keep your pet out of your garage to avoid antifreeze leaks and deicer spills, or purchase pet-safe propylene glycol products instead of toxic ethylene glycol antifreeze. When salting your sidewalk and driveway, also choose pet-safe products, and always wipe off your pet’s paws and belly when coming indoors to remove any salt or other chemicals she may lick while grooming.
#2: Avoid frozen ponds, lakes, and streams
Although Bambi and Thumper were adorable skating on the pond, real life is not a Disney movie, and tragedy may strike your pet if the ice is too thin. Pets are often confused about ice and, believing that it’s solid ground, may take off across a thin sheet of ice covering a body of water, only to break through and suffer severe consequences.
#3: Gear up for the weather with proper pet attire
Despite their fur coats, pets still feel the cold. Some pets have a lower cold tolerance than others, so ensure your furry friend is decked out appropriately to stay cozy outdoors. When choosing sweaters, coats, and protective booties, ensure a good fit for proper circulation. Constrictive clothing can choke your pet, or cut off blood flow to her paws, doing more harm than good.
#4: Groom your furry friend appropriately for cold weather
You should ditch the summer buzz cut, but still maintain a grooming schedule. Brushing your pet regularly helps disperse natural oils to prevent dry skin, and helps prevent mats to encourage proper thermoregulation. Consider trimming any long “feathers” on your pet, especially those on her legs, around her paws, or on a flowing tail, to prevent ice accumulation.
#5: Keep an eye out for hypothermia signs in your pet
Keep in mind that your pet’s fur does not fully protect her from the cold. The ear tips, tail, paws, and nose are especially prone to frostbite, and wet, snow-covered fur can quickly chill your pet. When romping in the snow, watch for these signs that your pet is too cold, and may be suffering from hypothermia:
- Pale or blue gums
- Stumbling, or lack of coordination
- Shallow breathing
- Fixed pupils
- Weak heartbeat
At the first hypothermia sign, rush your pet indoors into a warm building. Slowly and steadily increase her body temperature with a hair dryer set on low to avoid burning, water bottles filled with warm water, or socks filled with rice warmed in the microwave. Check your pet’s temperature rectally to ensure she reaches a normal level of at least 99 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, keep an eye on your pet’s skin to avoid burns or irritation from your warming methods. Once your pet’s temperature is normal, remove the warming agents and give us a call for further advice.
#6: When bad weather hits, exercise with your pet indoors
We see it every spring—pets come in for their annual exams and their weight has shot up since last year, which their owners call “winter weight” from being indoors and less active. If that’s the case with your pet, reduce her portion size. And remember, you may be stuck indoors because of inclement weather, but you can still have fun and stave off cabin fever with your four-legged friend by creating new games to play, teaching your pet unique tricks, or developing treat puzzles for her to solve.
If your pet frolics too much in the winter wonderland and runs into trouble—frostbite, hypothermia, or toxin exposure—we can help. Give us a call to let us know about your pet’s winter woes, or if you need help with her diet.