Winter weather in southwestern Ontario provides plenty of opportunities to play and interact with our pets that we don’t get during other times of the year. (When else can we do things like practice nose work in the snow?!) But snow, ice, and cold temperatures also bring the potential for hazards that can put our pets at risk.
Here are some tips to help your pets enjoy a safe, comfortable winter.
Keep Your Pet Warm
- Provide a warm sleeping space. Pets may appreciate having an extra blanket or a warmer surface to rest on during colder months. If your pet normally sleeps on the floor, raise the bed a few inches (if possible) and away from any drafts.
- Limit time spent outside, especially in bitter weather. Even pets who enjoy cold weather can only spend so much time outdoors without being at risk for frostbite (tissue damage) and hypothermia (low core body temperature). Pets with chronic medical conditions like heart or kidney disease, diabetes, or a hormone disorder may not tolerate cold temperatures well and should be watched carefully when outside.
- Dress your pet for the weather. If your pet is a toy or small breed, very young or elderly, has a thin haircoat, or a medical condition, a sweater or coat can help keep them warm outdoors.
- Bring your pet indoors. During harsh winter storms and freezing temperatures, keep outdoor pets inside. Senior pets and those with a medical condition should have a bed inside year-round.
Protect Your Pet’s Feet
- Check your pet’s paws when outside. Make sure snow and ice chunks haven’t gotten packed in between your pet’s toes or paw pads, which can make it uncomfortable for your pet to walk. Picking up the paws or refusing to move are clues that something may be stuck or hurting your pet.
- Clean your pet’s paws and coat once inside. Wipe your pet down after spending time outdoors. Remove any rock salt or ice that might be between their toes or their fur.
- Check your pet’s paw pads. Let us know if you notice any cracks or sores on your pet’s paw pads. Cold weather can result in painful pad damage.
- Consider canine booties or a paw protectant. Canine booties can help keep paws dry and warm. If your dog won’t tolerate booties, consider applying a paw protectant, such as petroleum jelly, wax, or balm, just before heading outside.
- Check your car. Before getting into your vehicle, look underneath it and thump on the hood to wake any sleeping kitties or other animals who may have taken refuge there for warmth.
- Scan your laundry area. Dryers attract pets for the same reason that vehicles do—they provide warm, cozy spaces. Make sure your pet isn’t hiding out in the laundry or dryer before running a new load of clothes.
- Don’t leave your pet alone in your car. Just like you should never leave pets unattended in a vehicle during hot weather, winter temperatures can pose a similar risk to pets. Cold weather can quickly make the interior of a vehicle feel like a refrigerator and put your pet’s health at risk.
- Keep your pet away from antifreeze. Antifreeze that contains ethylene glycol (most traditional antifreezes) is toxic to both dogs and cats and unfortunately also smells good to them. Keep antifreeze in tightly closed containers out of reach of pets and be sure to clean up spills right away. Even a small amount can be fatal if ingested. Consider using antifreeze alternatives that are safer for pets.
If you think your pet ingested something poisonous, contact us immediately. During off-hours, you can also contact the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435 or Pet Poison Helpline at 855-764-7661 (a fee will be charged).
Protect Your Pet from Other Winter Hazards
- Watch for icy patches. A pet’s claws won’t keep them from sliding on slippery surfaces. For your safety as well as your pet’s, avoid icy areas and frozen lakes or ponds. Take extra care if you have a senior pet or one with osteoarthritis (OA), who may have limited mobility.
- Choose pet-friendly ice melts. Chemicals and salt can burn paw pads and are toxic if licked off the ground, out of puddles, or from paws. Always wipe off your pet’s paws when you get back inside as you can’t know what has been used as a de-icer off your property.
- Use space heaters with caution. Never leave your pet unattended around a space heater.
- Include your pet in disaster/emergency plans. Keep a five-day supply of your pet’s food and any medicine, including preventives and other prescriptions, with your family’s emergency kit.
Make Time for Medical Care
If your pet hasn’t visited us for a while or is due for his or her wellness exam, now is the perfect time to schedule an appointment with your pet’s veterinarian. And give us a call or email us if you have any questions about keeping your pet safe and warm during our chilly southwestern Ontario winter!