Winter can be a fun time for pets, especially those who love to play in the snow! But just like summer, winter can also be dangerous, even for well-loved pets. It can be difficult to perceive everything that may be dangerous to your pet, especially when many things are not also harmful to humans. In this blog post, we’ll detail both major and minor dangers, so you can keep your pet safe this winter.
Know the Limits
Each pet’s tolerance for cold temperatures is different, just like each person’s is different. In addition to this, cold tolerance can be affected by many physical factors. Does your pet have short hair or long hair? Short hair pets will feel cold faster because they have less protection. It can often be beneficial to provide a coat or sweater to short haired pets if they have to be outside for extended amounts of time. A pet’s fat stores may also determine whether they will need extra coverings. Do they have sufficient fat stores? Or do they have a smaller build with less fat?
Is your pet able bodied? Dogs with different illnesses or conditions may also react more negatively to cold weather. Elderly pets, or pets with arthritis may have a harder time moving in ice and snow. Pets with diabetes, heart disease, or even hormonal issues may have difficulty regulating their body temperatures in extreme temperatures.
It’s important to know how your pet reacts to cold weather. Observe them closely any time you are outside this winter. This is especially important if they haven’t had a lot of previous exposure to cold weather.
When You Are Outside
Sometimes we won’t have a choice on whether to have our pet inside or outside. If your pet must be outside for some reason, continuously ensure their safety and well-being. Frequently check their paws for cracking or bleeding. A dog’s paws can easily be affected by salt, deicer, snow, or ice.
If they have been outside for some time, ensure you wipe not only their paws, but also their underbellies when they come inside. This is very important for dogs who are closer to the ground. During the winter, its easy for them to pick up chemicals like antifreeze, deicer, or other products commonly used in cold weather.
Keep a close eye on your pet when you are outside. It’s much easier for pets to get lost in the winter as conditions like ice and snow can make it difficult for them to pick up scents that they normally would be able to smell. Make sure your pet is micro-chipped, and has a collar with an identification tag that includes your contact information.
Recognize Dangerous Signs
Pets who are experiencing distress from cold weather often show signs, just as they would if they were experiencing stress from hot weather. These signs can include visible shivering. Even if your pet has a coat on, it may still not be enough to keep them warm, so stay vigilant.
Pets may also communicate their stress by whining or displaying signs of anxiety. Anxiety symptoms might include panting (even though they’re not hot), or whining. If your dog seems stressed, bring them back inside immediately.
Other signs of cold weather distress can include slowing down, refusing to move, or appearing to be physically weak. Your pet may start looking for a warm place to burrow. This is an especially dangerous sign as it can indicate hypothermia. Hypothermia requires immediate veterinarian attention.
Keep your pets safe this winter by carefully observing them any time they are outside. Know your pet’s limits, and know what signs and symptoms can indicate stress. If others are with your pet, such as a dog walker or pet sitter, ask them if they notice any signs of cold weather distress during outdoor exercise or potty breaks. Vigilance is the key to keeping your pet safe, not only in winter, but all seasons.