Blustery winds, deep snowdrifts, and icy walkways are standards in an Ohio winter package but, while we can bundle up against frigid temperatures, pets need our help to do the same. Instead of hibernating until spring, learn the following five tips on how to battle the cold with your pet.
#1: Know hypothermia signs in your pet
Pets often believe they are invincible and don’t know their own limits, which can get them into a variety of sticky situations. When heading outdoors for winter fun with your furry friend, monitor her closely to ensure she doesn’t overdo it. Despite her fur coat, she still can’t tolerate cold temperatures for long. Northern breeds, such as huskies and malamutes, can also succumb to frostbite and hypothermia if they frolic in the snow for too long, because they have become house pets instead of sled dogs. When romping outside with your pup, ensure her safety by keeping an eye out for these hypothermia signs:
- Violent shivering
- Weak pulse
- Difficulty breathing
- Muscle stiffness
- Pale or bluish skin
If it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for your pet. Return indoors immediately when you become chilled or notice your pet shivering. Warm her up with blankets fresh from the dryer, a hair dryer on a low setting, or a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel. For pets who have been outside for too long, you may notice signs of frostbite, which include:
- Red- or gray-tinged skin on her ear and tail tips
- Skin that appears pale, grayish-white, or blue at first, and red and puffy later
- Pain in the ears, tail, or paws when touched
- Skin that stays cold and brittle, or appears shriveled
While frostbite is usually not life-threatening initially, prolonged exposure to cold, wet weather will lead to hypothermia, which can put your pet in immediate danger.
#2: Watch out for ice when walking your pet
Pups who enjoy splashing in the water during summer may still attempt to frolic on your local lake that may be frozen but, all too often, the ice is too thin for her weight, leading to a heartbreaking outcome. When in doubt of ice thickness, stay away from bodies of water, and keep your dog on a leash to ensure she doesn’t try to jump in the cold water.
Ice on sidewalks and in your yard can also pose a threat to your pet. Sharp ice fragments can cut sensitive paw pads, while sheets of black ice on walkways can create a slippery surface that leads to orthopedic injuries—for you and your pet. Shield your pooch from ice hazards by teaching her to walk in doggy booties for traction and protection.
#3: Place dangerous winter chemicals out of your pet’s reach
Pets enjoy sticking their noses into things they shouldn’t, and chemicals routinely place high on that list. While ethylene glycol in antifreeze can cause acute kidney failure in your pet, pet-safe propylene glycol alternatives are available. Keep in mind that ethylene glycol is also present in snow globes, so place these cute keepsakes out of your pet’s reach, as well.
Salt is another winter chemical widely used to melt ice on roads and sidewalks. Many of these salt products are unsafe for pets, as they will lick off accumulated salt from their paws and fur. Protect your pet from deicing products by using pet-safe options around your home, wiping off her paws and coat when coming indoors, and applying a protective paw balm or wax to prevent salt buildup.
#4: Groom your pet appropriately for the weather
Keep your pet warm and comfortable during frigid winter temperatures with proper fur and skin care. Brush her regularly to prevent mats, which can interfere with her thermoregulation, and chill her more easily. Routine brushing also disperses healthy oils along your pet’s skin and hair coat, which can help prevent dry, irritated, and flaky skin commonly seen with dry heat in homes.
#5: Monitor your pet’s comfort level during cold temperatures
Like us, pets enjoy snuggling up to a roaring fire or toasty space heater when the thermostat drops. But, keep a close eye on your pal to ensure she doesn’t get too close to a heat source, and burn herself, knock over the heater, or scatter hot coals. Some pets may be uncomfortable too close to a heat source, so provide a variety of resting areas to allow her to choose her best spot. Check her bedding areas for chilly drafts or hot spots to ensure her maximum comfort.
If your pet runs afoul of a winter hazard, contact us for help.