When the mercury plunges and the flurries fly, the last thing you want to do is crawl out of your nice warm bed and walk your dog (as much as you love him!). But he still needs exercise, no matter how frightful the weather. At the same time, winter can create hazardous conditions. What do you need to know to keep your dog safe during the cold months?
Keeping Your Pet Safe in the Winter
Be vigilant to protect your pet from:
- Frostbite. Your pet’s paws, tail, and ears are vulnerable to frostbite in cold weather. If you notice ice crystals on these areas, bring your dog inside immediately and allow him to warm up. He may not get to romp as long as usual, so make up for it with shorter, more frequent outings.
- Hypothermia. Sometimes, even a fur coat isn’t enough to protect against the elements. When her body temperature drops, it can put her at risk for heart attack or other dangerous conditions. Again, limit time outdoors in very cold temperatures. This is also true of leaving her in vehicles, which quickly become refrigerators. If you must leave your dog in the car, lock her in, turn on the heat, and make your stop a quick one. Better yet, leave her home.
- Antifreeze. Yum, something smells sweet! I’ll investigate it. Antifreeze is toxic, but its alluring scent makes it a big danger for pets. Make sure to keep all antifreeze containers closed tightly and placed on out-of-reach shelves. Be on the lookout for green, blue, pink, or orange spills in your driveway, as well. Even one lick can cause serious injury.
- Salt and melting crystals. These compounds help dissolve ice and prevent slips on roadways and sidewalks. They can also also cause paw burns, extreme drying, and cracking. Consider investing in pet boots or use a product like Bag Balm before your walks to protect her feet. Be sure to wash your dog’s feet with warm water after the walk because many salts contain toxic additives that can be harmful to her health.
- Arthritis. Cold weather can worsen symptoms of arthritis and other joint pain. If you notice your pet has difficulty getting up and down, climbing stairs, or is irritable or snappy when touched or picked up, call your vet. He or she can recommend a proper treatment to help ease discomfort.
- Insufficient caloric intake. If your pet spends a lot of time outdoors, she’ll need extra food. Her body is working harder than usual to keep her warm. Replace those lost calories with healthy meals. And always, always make sure she’s hydrated! If you keep a water bowl outdoors, make sure to keep it ice-free.
- Holiday revelry! Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and other occasions provide great relief from a long winter – but they can create risky situations for your pet. Watch out for:
- Seasonal plants, like poinsettias, holly, mistletoe, and even your pine Christmas tree. They are toxic to pets.
- Holiday treats. Chocolate, fatty turkey skin, walnuts, almonds, macadamias, and meats with bones, can all pose risks to your pet’s health.
- Gift wrap ribbon, tinsel, and ornaments. They can be tempting – and a big choking hazard.
When you take simple precautions to protect your pets from winter dangers, you can both enjoy the season (even if you don’t enjoy getting out of that nice, warm bed!).