The Winter has finally arrived, and it’s not just humans that need to be extra careful at this time of the year; there are plenty of winter hazards for pets, too. Whether you’ve got a dog, a rabbit or a lizard, there’s only one way to keep them safe and happy through the Winter period. Study up on these winter hazards for pets and make sure your loved ones stay safe all season long (and don’t forget to send us a picture, too!).
This one is possibly the most widely-reported Winter hazard for pets, and it’s for a good reason, too. Every year, hundreds of animals die after consuming Ethylene Glycol, or Antifreeze. It has a sweet smell and an enticing appearance, but it’s totally toxic to cats and dogs, and can cause death within hours. Keep your pets well away from any antifreeze, and mop up any spillages ASAP, or even better, use Propylene Glycol, which is pet-friendly. If you do think your pet may have consumed antifreeze, get to a vet ASAP. This poison has a very fast absorption rate, taking around one hour, and kidney failure can begin very soon afterwards. Treatments can be given, and are very effective if received fast enough, so don’t take the risk.
2. Keep the Water Clear!
All animals need a supply of fresh water – and it’s very easy for water to become frozen whilst it’s so cold outside. Make it a habit to frequently check that your pet’s water isn’t frozen, and consider getting a thermal insulator or heated bowl for any water that does freeze frequently. Pets won’t necessarily find another water source, and working in a vet's, we saw a surprising amount of dehydration cases in the colder months.
3. Outside Pets Need Extra Care
Do your pets live outside? If so, make sure you’ve got a plan to change their lifestyle now that it’s colder. Taking them inside is the best option, but as this isn’t always possible, there are other things you can do too. First, make sure that their housing is adequate, and will protect them from wind, rain and the cold. Add extra bedding if you can, and make sure the housing is sturdy and easy to get into. Many pet stores now sell heated mats to make keeping outdoor pets warm even easier, or pile up straw. Next, make sure that you increase your pet’s food. The animal is likely to burn more calories while keeping their body temperature up, so more food is likely to be needed. If you aren’t sure, have a check up with your vet.
4. Exercise Maintenance
If your dogs are anything like mine, they won’t be keen to give up exercise! There’s a simple way to make sure they avoid injury, though: get into the habit of rinsing off your pet’s feet after each walk. This will remove any de-icer from their paws (to stop them licking it off, and risking poisoning) and allows you to check for wounds or ice balls too.
5. Extra Food
I’ve already stocked my cupboards full of nice snacks, and there is something about the Winter that makes them seem so much more necessary. Be careful about what treats you share with your pets, though: some foods, such as grapes and raisins, are toxic to dogs. Others, like fatty meat and poultry skins, might cause stomach upsets. If you don’t want to be dealing with a poorly tummy, think twice about what you share!
The ASPCA Poison Control Center is trying to raise awareness about all the common poisons ingested by dogs – and while antifreeze is number one, some other household items aren’t far behind. Liquid potpourris sales shoot up in January, but it can cause serious issues for dogs and cats, including permanent oral, dermal and ocular damage. Mouse and rat poisons are also used more during the winter, but need to be placed carefully away from your pets to be safe.
7. Hypothermia and Frostbite
The last really common winter hazard is frostbite. Most of the time, owners don’t realize that their pets are too cold, but both of these conditions can be fatal. Cat’s and dog’s are usually between 101 and 102.5 Fahrenheit and if this drops, it can be fatal. Worried? If your dog is lethargic, appears to have stiff muscles, has a lack of appetite or a weak pulse, seek veterinary help. Other symptoms include violent shaking, listlessness, breathing problems, entering a coma, experiencing cardiac arrest or a rectal temperature of below 98 degrees Fahrenheit. Give your pet the best chance by wrapping them in a warm blanket, placing them in a warm environment, and calling your vet immediately. A solution of four teaspoons of sugar or honey dissolved in warm water or corn syrup applied to the gums can help on the journey. Avoid using heat pads or hairdryers, as these can divert blood from the vital organs.
Winter really is a tough time for animals, so it’s no wonder that rescues and sanctuaries fill up when the temperature drops. Don’t forget to check any exotics, too – I’ll be spending the next few days making sure my heat mats are working fine, and giving everyone a spring clean. Do you know of a winter hazard I’ve missed, or have a story to share? Let us know!