For pet parents in cold climates, winter brings much more than just falling snow and hot cocoa. Winter can be dangerous for our furry companions and people who know the hazards and risks associated with the colder months are better prepared to ensure their pet’s safety and health all winter long. Here’s what you need to know to care for your four-legged friend when the temperatures dip.
The Five Deadliest Winter Dangers for Pets
For dogs and cats, the winter months present some distinct dangers, including:
Just like people, pets get hypothermia. This condition takes place when the pet’s body temperature drops far below normal. Without immediate treatment, hypothermia can lead to cold injuries to extremities and even death. Young, old, and sick pets are at increased risk for hypothermia. Pet parents who see any signs of hypothermia such as paleness to gums, shivering, listlessness and lethargy should move the pet to a warmer environment immediately.
2. Antifreeze Ingestion
Antifreeze is a winter staple for cars, but it’s deadly for pets. To prevent your pet from ingesting antifreeze, be careful to avoid spills when refilling your car and keep it securely stored where pets cannot reach it. Pets exhibiting signs of antifreeze ingestion (drooling, vomiting, “drunk” appearance) should be taken to a vet immediately.
If left outside during a cold day, pets may keep warm by huddling under the engine or exhaust of an idling car. Unfortunately, this can result in the pet being run over once the car starts moving. To avoid this, keep your pets inside during chilly days and always check under the hood and beneath the car before driving off.
4. Commercial De-Icers
Ice-melting salts look and taste good to pets, but they can be poisonous when consumed. Opt for pet-safe de-icers when tending to your walk ways and be sure to store the product where your pet can’t find it.
Rodenticides are often used to discourage rodents from moving indoors during the winter months, but they can be fatal for pets. If you have pets and mice in the home, consider using snap or live traps to control your rodent problem. Be sure to place them where pets cannot reach them.
Cold Weather Pet Care Tips
Now that you know the common dangers facing pets during the winter, it’s time to learn how to best care for your four-legged companion during the coldest months. Follow these tips to keep your pet healthy and happy all winter long:
- Get a checkup. Pets should always have a routine wellness check during the winter as cold weather can make some conditions, such as arthritis, worse.
- Don’t push it. Pets can only tolerate the cold for so long and as the pet parent, you need to know how to tell when your pet has had enough. You may want to shorten walks with your dog in the winter or provide a coat for pets that get cold easily.
- Keep them inside. When the weather gets very cold, cats and dogs should be kept inside to prevent conditions like hypothermia and frostbite.
- Be prepared. Winter brings with it the possibility of power outages and freezing temperatures, so it’s always wise to have a pet emergency kit on hand. This should include food, water, and the medicine your pet will need to make it through a few chilly days.
Cold-weather pet care can be challenging, but these simple tips will help ensure that your pet is safe and warm, even when the weather outside is frightful.
Content reviewed by a veterinarian.