The recent first snowfall
has many of us locating sweaters, boots, and ice scrapers for the car. As you’re preparing for the colder weather ahead, don’t forget your pets! They’re even more impacted by extreme weather, so now is the time to take steps to keep them warm and healthy this winter.
“The biggest thing to remember is that if it’s too cold for you outside, it’s too cold for them,” said Dean Daubert, Chief Operating Officer at Anderson Humane. “If you’re cold, they’re even colder.” Here are a few other things to keep in mind as the temperatures plunge and the snowy weather returns.
Protect Their Paws. Your dog’s paws can come into contact with snow, ice, cold concrete, and ice melt during cold-weather walks, so it’s important to keep them protected. Massage wax, petroleum jelly, or another protective gel onto their paw pads before going outside to guard against salt and other chemicals. It’s always good to wipe off their paws when you get home, ensuring no irritants remain. Booties offer even more protection from irritating ice melts and the cold.
“Keep the hair between the pads of their paws trimmed to prevent slush and ice balls from forming,” said Dean. “And if your dog starts limping or showing other signs of paw pain, take them home.”
Adjust Walk Schedules. When it’s especially cold outside, Dean suggests shorter, more frequent walks. And whenever possible, go out during the warmer parts of the day. If your dog will tolerate it, get him or her a good quality jacket. “Make sure it’s insulated and covers your dog’s back and sides,” Dean said, adding that sweaters usually aren’t enough to keep dogs warm outside during winter.
As your dog spends more time indoors this coming season, add some enrichment activities to prevent boredom – and any of the unwanted behaviors boredom can inspire. “Puzzle balls, games, snuffle mats, and stuffed kongs all offer your dog good mental stimulation,” Dean said.
Beware of Poisons. While an ice melt can make your sidewalks and driveway safer for you, it can be irritating to downright dangerous for your dog. Some melts are toxic if ingested, and many will irritate paws and skin. Buy a pet-friendly ice melt for your home or business, but know that even these aren’t necessarily completely safe. Watch for any symptoms or behaviors in your dog that might indicate a problem.
Antifreeze poses and even greater threat to your pets, as it is lethal to cats and dogs. “It smells sweet to them, so if they happen upon a puddle they are likely to drink it,” Dean said. Keep garage floors clean of these spills, store antifreeze containers well out of reach, and watch for this substance when you and your dog are on roads or parking lots.
Avoid the Cold. “Cars can become refrigerators very quickly, so don’t leave your pets in the car,” Dean said. He also advises that dogs shouldn’t be kept outside at any time, but especially not in the winter.
Cats should always be kept indoors, as it greatly increases their lifespan (and that of any wildlife in the neighborhood). Ensure that all pets have warm spaces to sleep indoors, off the floor and away from drafts.
Check Your Engine. When you pull into your driveway, your warm engine provides an enticing source of warmth for pets and wild animals alike. Often these animals will sleep curled up around your engine, putting them in danger the next time you start your car.
“Give the hood of your car a good rap before you get in and start it,” Dean said. If you park outside and know that animals are present, he suggests inspecting the engine before starting it.
If you have additional questions or concerns, contact your veterinarian or our low-cost vet clinic.