Here are some tips to protect your pets when the mercury dips.
- During the winter, outdoor cats will sometimes sleep under the hoods of cars. When the motor is started, the cat can be injured or killed by the fan belt. You can bang loudly on the car hood before starting the engine to give the cat notice.
- Never let your dog off the leash on snow or ice, especially during a snowstorm, dogs can lose their scent and easily become lost. More dogs are lost during the winter than during any other season, so make sure yours always wears ID tags.
- Wipe off your dog’s legs and stomach when he comes in out of the sleet, snow or ice. They can ingest salt, antifreeze or other potentially dangerous chemicals while licking his paws, and his paw pads may also bleed from snow or encrusted ice.
- Never leave your dog or cat alone in a car during cold weather. A car can hold in the cold and causing the animal to freeze to death.
- If your dog spends a lot of time engaged in outdoor activities you can increase his supply of food, particularly protein, to keep him, and his fur, in tip-top shape.
- Make sure your pet has a warm place to sleep off the floor and away from all drafts. A cozy dog or cat bed with a warm blanket or pillow works great.
- Like coolant, antifreeze is a lethal poison for dogs and cats. Be sure to thoroughly clean up any spills from your vehicle, and consider using products that contain propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol.
- Ice melt or salt that is commonly used to clear ice from sidewalks and other icy surfaces can be harmful to pets. The main ingredient in most ice melt products is either sodium chloride or calcium chloride. Both sodium and calcium chloride can irritate a dog’s paws or be harmful to the animal if ingested. There are ice melters you should use that are safe for pets such as Safe Paw.
- If you have an outdoor cat that won’t come in make sure it has fresh water, food, and dry shelter. You can use a birdbath heater for the water so it doesn’t freeze. For shelter you can use an already-manufactured pet house, a wooden box, even a cardboard box insulated with hay, towels, or blankets. Check bedding every day to make sure it is dry.
- violent shivering, followed by listlessness
- weak pulse
- muscle stiffness
- problems breathing
- lack of appetite
- rectal temperature below 98°F
- cardiac arrest
Wrap your pet in a warm blanket. You can warm blankets in the dryer for a few minutes. Bring your pet into a warm room. Give your pet a solution of four teaspoons honey or sugar dissolved in warm water to drink. You can also put 1-2 teaspoons of corn syrup on the gums if your pet is too weak to drink. This provides an immediate energy boost. Place warm, towel-wrapped water bottles against your pet’s abdomen or at her armpits and chest, then wrap her in a blanket. Do not use hair dryers, heating pads, or electric blankets to warm up a hypothermic pet as this may result in burns or cause surface blood vessels to dilate, which compromises circulation to vital organs. Call your veterinarian immediately.
- pale, gray, or blue skin at first
- red, puffy skin later
- pain in ears, tail, or paws when touched
- skin that stays cold
- shriveled skin
Apply warm (not hot) water for at least 20 minutes to the frostbitten area. Do not use hair dryers, heating pads, or electric blankets to warm up a frostbitten pet as this may cause burns. Handle the affected areas very carefully; don’t rub or massage them as you could cause permanent damage. Call your vet immediately.
The best rule of thumb to follow is if it’s too cold for you to be outside it’s probably too cold for your pet.