Cold Weather Pet Tips

It’s that time of year again here in Midland.  There’s frost on the car windows in the morning, your breath looks like little puffs of smoke, and there’s even been some snow on the ground already.  I’m sure you’re bundled up and as ready as you can be for a few months spent in a frozen tundra, but is your pet?  Here are a couple of things to remember this winter to keep your pet cozy and warm.

Keep your cat inside.  Cats aren’t always able to find adequate shelter, food, or water while outside in the winter months.  If your cat is typically indoor/outdoor, it’s best to keep them inside until the thaw in the spring.  Cat’s looking for warmth outdoors have a habit of finding it in car engines, so be sure to knock on the hood of your car while you’re scraping the ice off of your windows to ensure you don’t seriously injure or kill a cat when you start your car.

While walking your dog, please keep it on a leash.  Dogs can much more easily lose their scent in snow, and may be unable to find their way home if they take off (which they are apt to do if snow is falling heavily).  This is especially important if there are ponds, lakes or rivers nearby where your pet could fall through the ice.  More pets are lost in the winter months than any other season, so please make sure your dog has the proper identification tags.  You can also give us a call, or set up an appointment to get your pet microchipped so it is more likely that they make it home to you should they come up missing.

After your pet has been outside, it is important that you wipe down their feet, legs and stomach to get rid of anything they may have picked up.  Ice chunks left between toes can cause pads to become irritated and bleed.  Pets are also apt to pick up salt, antifreeze, and other potentially dangerous chemicals while on walks which can cause serious issues when they lick their paws later.  It is also important that you are not contributing to the problem of your pet picking up harmful substances.  Please make sure you clean up any antifreeze that may have spilled (if it is possible, use propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol) , and try to use pet friendly deicing products on walkways. You can visit ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center for more information.

Leave your pet’s coat longer this winter.  A longer coat helps protect against the colder weather.  Brushing your pet’s coat often and vigorously is also recommended.  The dry, winter climate depletes moisture from your dog’s skin and coat; brushing improves skin, coat, and circulation.  Also, matted fur does not protect against the cold as well as fur that is regularly brushed.  When a coat is ‘fluffy’ the air pockets created help conserve heat, much like layering clothing.  If your dog has a short coat, a sweater or jacket is recommended outerwear.  Also, make sure that if you bathe your pet, they are completely dry before venturing outside.  For pets with dry and sensitive paws, try spraying their pads with cooking spray before taking them out for long periods for a little added protection.

Puppies and elderly pets are more susceptible to cold weather problems.  Puppies are more difficult to housebreak in the winter because they do not tolerate cold weather well.  Elderly and arthritic pets have more stiffness and joint pain due to the cold.  Shoveling out a “potty spot” for puppies, elderly pets, and small breeds can help make doing their business a little easier for them.

Frostbite and hypothermia are major concerns in the winter.  Ears, feet and noses are most apt to become frostbitten.  Skin may appear red, gray or whiteish and may peel off if frostbite is occurring.  To treat, move pet to warm area and apply warm, moist towels to the area, and change them frequently.  DO NOT RUB AFFECTED AREA!! Rubbing the skin is likely to cause more damage.  Take your pet to a veterinarian for further treatment.  Frostbite and hypothermia are more likely if a pet is left outside for an extended period, or if the pet is left unattended in a car.  A car acts like a refrigerator in the winter, and pets can easily freeze if left inside.

Ensure that your pet has plenty of food and fresh water.  Pets that are outside for long periods of time should have food increased to ensure that their coat is healthy and thick.  Making sure that fresh water is available to your pet is very important.  Water bowls can freeze over and cause a pet to search for water in other areas, such as puddles, which can contain antifreeze and other harmful chemicals.

Inside the home make sure that your pet has a warm place to sleep.  A cozy blanket, bed or pillow placed away from drafty areas is ideal.  Tile floors and basements can become very chilly.  Pets should also be kept from getting too close to fire places and space heaters.  Animals can easily knock over a space heater causing a fire hazard, or get tails too close to hot coils and flames.  Another good thing to check inside the home is the furnace for carbon monoxide leaks.  Pets spend more time in the home than their owners and are more susceptible to carbon monoxide poisoning.

We enjoy caring for your pets and want to see them continue to be happy and healthy.  Schedule your pet for a winter check up and discuss any questions or concerns you may have for your furry family members this winter.

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