Pets need your help to stay warm and safe during these early and frigid Idaho winter temperatures.
Brrrrrr! Only mid-November and winter slipped in! The Treasure Valley– and much of the rest of the country– is currently enveloped in a chilly weather pattern. For Idahoans, don’t look for a warm-up anytime soon and with these frigid temperatures, it is critical that animal caretakers help protect their furry family members from hypothermia, frostbite, slips and falls, and deicing salts and chemicals.
Today’s blog post focuses on Wintry Pet Safety tips:
Wellness exams. Cold temperatures may exacerbate certain medical conditions in your pet. These include arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, or hormonal imbalances. The problems stem from the animal’s inability to regulate its body temperature. One simple preventative measure that you can take is to have your pet examined by your family veterinarian annually. Ask him or her about how your pet’s medical condition could be affected by changing temperatures. Observe your pet carefully for any changes in well-being or temperament.
Pets in the cold. Just as intense heat is harmful to pets, single digit temperatures (and below!) pose a different threat. Your pet’s ability to manage cold varies based on his/her age, the density of coat, body fat, activity level, and overall health. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) states that “Long-haired or thick-coated dogs tend to be more cold tolerant, but are still at risk in cold weather. Short-haired pets feel the cold faster because they have less protection, and short-legged pets may become cold faster because their bellies and bodies are more likely to come into contact with the snow-covered ground.”
Besides the cold temps and piles of snow, ice patches can be treacherous for pets. Arthritic or senior pets may be more prone to slipping and falling. Use a leash, and guide your pet to safe areas when possible.
Indoors is best. Clearly, with the frigid temperatures, it is best for pets to stay indoors. There is a mistaken belief that cats and dogs are more resistant to the cold because of their fur coats, however, it’s simply not true. Pets are susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia—even breeds like Huskies who have thick coats and generally enjoy more cold tolerance. This advice also applies to leaving pets in cold cars. Pets cannot wait in the parking lot with sub-zero temperatures in the forecast. Leave them safely at home when you are doing your holiday shopping and running errands.
If you are unable to keep your dog indoors during cold weather, a warm shelter is crucial as well as access to fresh (not frozen) water. Watch for signs of cold-related problems in your pet including whining, shivering, anxiety, moving slowly—or not moving, appearing weak, and looking for warm places to burrow; all of these are signs of hypothermia— a serious situation that requires getting your pet inside and warm quickly. Be aware that frostbite damage may not show until a few days after the damage is done. Regardless, if you suspect your pet has hypothermia or frostbite, consult your veterinarian immediately.
Peek at those paws. During and after a walk, check your dog’s paws for cold weather injuries like cracked pads or bleeding. In addition, if you notice a sudden lameness or limping during the walk, it may be due to ice build-up between your pet’s toes. You can purchase snowshoes or booties for dogs at area pet retailers to help with this problem. Plus, why not be extra fashionable? If your dog has a short coat you can slip him or her into a doggie sweater or coat to help keep them warm.
Wipe down. Another important note from the AVMA is to clean up your pet after you’ve been outside. “During walks, your dog’s feet, legs, and belly may pick up deicers, antifreeze, or other chemicals that could be toxic. When you get back inside, wipe down (or wash) your pet’s feet, legs, and belly to remove these chemicals and reduce the risk that your dog will be poisoned after (s)he licks them off of his/her feet or fur. “
It seems like we are in store for a long Idaho winter. Let’s ALL stay safe and try to enjoy it!