While spring is right around the corner, the winter weather conditions have hit hard this year, making normal activities like walking and exercise difficult for pets. The chilly weather also brings increased risks to your pet’s health and safety. Here are our top six tips for keeping your pet safe and healthy this winter.

#1: Pet-proof your home.

  • Space heaters can help you keep warm on cold winter days, but it’s important to remember your pet does not understand their potential hazards. Keep pets away from temporary heat sources and their cords to prevent injuries and risk of fire.
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning can be an unfortunate result of a malfunctioning furnace. Have your furnace inspected every winter to ensure it works properly, and purchase a carbon monoxide detector to keep everyone in your household safe.
  • Keep potential toxins away from your pet’s reach. Eliminate any chance of your four-legged friend getting into household cleaners, antifreeze, and toxic foods, such as chocolate and onions, by keeping them behind closed doors and on high shelves.

#2: Make health a priority.

  • Chronic medical conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and kidney problems, can make pets less tolerant to colder temperatures. Schedule a wellness exam so your veterinarian can diagnose potential conditions that may worsen during the winter season.
  • Like humans, pets often eat more and exercise less when the weather is cold. Increased body fat causes negative long-term health consequences, and is not a wise way to conserve body heat. Add indoor exercise activities to your daily routine to keep your pet fit and trim through the winter months, and avoid overfeeding.
  • If your pet has a medical condition that requires prescription medication, keep all prescriptions filled in case you are unable to leave your home due to inclement weather. Refill medications several days before they run out to avoid missing doses.

#3: Limit time spent outside.

  • When the temperature dips below freezing, it is not safe for pets to be outdoors for long periods of time. Owners can reduce walk duration, keep outdoor play time to a minimum, and shorten potty breaks. Make the most of the time your pet is able to be outside, but always put her safety first.
  • Certain dog breeds, such as Newfoundlands, were bred to tolerate cold weather conditions. However, if there is no previous exposure to snow, ice, and frigid temperatures, any breed can negatively respond to extreme conditions. Know your dog’s history of cold weather exposure, and keep physical characteristics in mind when determining how long she should be outside.

#4: Find ways to stay warm.

  • Sweaters and coats are excellent accessories for added protection, particularly for pets with a low level of tolerance to the cold. Dogs with short legs will benefit from the extra layer of protection when snow and ice are present. Booties can also be used to keep paws dry and protected from the elements.
  • Don’t trim your dog’s hair too short during the winter months. Thick, long, and double-layered coats are designed to keep dogs warm and protected from the cold weather.
  • After a bath, dry your dog completely. Towel dry thoroughly and use a hair dryer on a low setting to completely dry the hair coat. If left damp, dogs can get cold quickly, increasing chances of hypothermia.
  • Provide extra blankets and bedding to give your pet alternative sources for warmth.

#5: Be on paw patrol.

  • Ice-melting salts should be used with caution around pets. When left on the paws after walks, the salt can cause chemical burns. It also has the potential to cause toxicity if ingested. Use pet-friendly ice melt products, and clean your dog’s paws after she has ventured outside.
  • Keep the fur between your pet’s toes trimmed short to prevent accumulation of snow and ice. Regularly check her paws for cracked or bleeding pads, as walks in the cold, icy weather can be harsh on paw pads.

#6: Know the signs of hypothermia.

  • Hypothermia can occur when pets are overexposed to cold temperatures. Severe hypothermia may result in death, so it’s critical for pet owners to recognize the signs of this condition:
    • Labored breathing
    • Dilated pupils
    • Decreased heart rate
    • Lethargy or weakness
    • Body temperature under 95 degrees Fahrenheit
    • Pale or blue gums
    • Extreme shivering or trembling
    • Cold extremities
    • Unconsciousness

If signs of hypothermia are noticed, load your pet into a warm vehicle and bring her to our hospital immediately for treatment.

Questions about cold weather safety? Call us at 704-867-8318 today.