Winter is creeping closer and closer--some parts of the country have even seen their first snowfall already! It’s time to talk about what threats are lurking in the cold, snow, and ice and how to prepare our pets for the battle against winter. Even breeds that are made for the snow can face trouble if we don’t know what to watch out for and how to keep our pets safe in the cold. Read on!
1. Weight Gain
We all tend to gain weight in the winter because we’re indoors more and not as active, on top of all of the holiday treats we’re eating. Pets are the same! Try not to give your pet too many extra treats and reduce meal portions on days when they’re getting a lot. Or, try healthier DIY treats for dogs and cats.
2. Keep Anti-freeze Out of Reach
Anti-freeze is sweet-tasting and very commonly ingested by pets. Make sure that you keep all bottles up off the floor and out of your pet’s reach. Don’t leave your pet in your garage unattended - he could lick at puddles of it or figure out ways to get at your supply. Keep him out of the area when you’re adding more to your car, and be sure to clean up any spills immediately.
3. Salt, Snow, and Ice
Salt and other ice-melting chemicals can irritate and burn your pet’s pads and snow and ice can get trapped in clumps between his toes. One way to protect your pet’s feet is to use booties whenever the pet is outside (they also help to shield against frostbite). If your pet won’t tolerate them, make sure to wipe down and clean your pet’s feet after coming in from any trip outside and be extra diligent about trimming the fur on their feet and inspecting their pads throughout the winter season.
4. Outside Water Supply
Swap out all metal bowls for plastic or glass. A pet’s tongue can get stuck on metal during the cold winter months very easily. Additionally, you should change the water much more frequently than you might be used to in order to prevent it from freezing (consider a heated bowl if freezing is a problem).
If you care for feral cats or other animals, click here for even more tips about keeping their food and water from freezing.
5. Heat Can Burn
‘Tis the season to enjoy heat from all sorts of sources--all of them potentially hazardous to pets. Make sure to never leave space heaters or wall units on while you are away--get in the habit of doing a final sweep to turn them off and unplug them before leaving the house. This stops any potential fires as well as pets getting burned.
If your pet enjoys the fireplace as much as you do, make sure you always close the screen properly, and that you place his bed far enough away from it. Some pets will still lie practically right on top of it, no matter where you put their beds. For those pets, make sure you check on them and get them to change position periodically--especially if they are long-haired!
6. Holiday Fare
The winter season is full of holidays! These holidays mean decorations, gifts, and treats – time to pet-proof your home during the holidays!
Make sure all decorations are inaccessible to pets--this includes extension cords.
Blow out all candles and turn off and unplug all electrical decorations and lights if you are not home.
If you light a menorah, consider an electrical one instead of real candles to cut even further down on the fire hazard.
If you have a Christmas tree, opt to decorate with garland instead of tinsel, which is extremely dangerous for pets if eaten. It can get wrapped around their intestines in no time, creating a critical medical emergency.
Watch out for holiday plants, like mistletoe, holly, poinsettias, and even the Christmas tree itself. All of these items can cause symptoms from mild mouth irritation to full-blown GI emergencies if ingested.
And, of course, keep all of those holiday treats out of reach and take trash out right away. Many a pet has scaled kitchen counters and tables and ripped through trash bags to get at yummy turkey carcasses, cookies, and anything they probably shouldn’t have.
Prolonged exposure to the cold, or time outdoors, can lead to arthritis flare-ups and hypothermia. Make sure that pets are outside only as long as absolutely necessary. If your pet has stiffness, add some salmon oil or other fatty, lubricating supplements to his food and talk to your vet about any pain management medications or techniques you can use.
Bonus: The oil will also help combat winter dry skin and itchiness!
Never leave an arthritic pet outside alone in the cold, icy weather--he could slip and fall without you even realizing it. When you do take him for walks, go slow. If you have even a part-time outdoor pet, ensure that he has adequate and well-maintained shelter. A pet can become very ill or even die in a very short time in cold weather, so make sure you check on him and his shelter every day and make repairs and improvements as soon as you discover the need.
If you have any indoor-outdoor cats, make sure it isn’t too cold outside for them. If you or take care of the occasional stray, make sure they are protected against the cold and have sufficient shelter, as well. Follow Embrace’s tips on how to make a winter feral cat shelter that will help keep your furry friends warm!
8. Beware of Frozen Lakes
If your pet loves to play in the snow, that’s awesome! Just make sure you always stay with him and keep him on a leash. It takes mere seconds for a dog to inadvertently wander onto a frozen lake. If it’s only partially frozen, he may fall right through and be gone before you can save him. If it’s totally frozen, he won’t fall through, but he may get to the middle and find he can’t get enough traction to get back to shore.
9. Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
More heat means more furnace use and more potential for leaks, leading to carbon monoxide poisoning. Your pets are even more susceptible to this because they are smaller and typically left home alone for hours every day. Some symptoms of carbon monoxide toxicity include red gums, rapid breathing, passing out, or throwing up. Make sure your carbon monoxide detectors are in working order with fresh batteries today!