'Tis The Season...Cold Weather and Holiday Cautions
As pet owners, we must be aware of the dangers presented by cold weather and holiday festivities.
When the temperature drops, you need to be aware of the extra risks posed by the weather. Just as you gather emergency supplies for yourselves, make sure to have a basic supply kit for your pet in case the weather should prevent you from leaving your house. The checklist of basic supplies might include food, litter, fresh water, warm bedding, and any medications your pet takes on a regular basis.
If you have an outdoor pet, keep in mind that not all pets are naturally suited for a harsh, cold environment. Longer haired pets who grow in a thick coat during the winter are more adaptable to frigid conditions. Short-haired pets may need cold weather gear such as sweaters and booties. All pets need adequate shelter from the elements and insulation against cold weather.
Outdoor animals typically require more calories in the winter. Extra calories allow their body to produce excess body heat. If your lives outdoors, please consult us if you need feeding guidelines. Likewise, indoor animals animals may actually require fewer calories to prevent weight gain.
If possible, bring pets indoors during extreme cold weather. Just like humans, pets are susceptible to hypothermia and frostbite when exposed to cold temperatures, even for a short period of time. Younger and senior pets are especially at risk. Check on your pet often! Frostbitten skin is red or gray, but this is difficult to spot because pets are covered with fur. If you think your pet has frostbite, apply warm, moist towels to thaw out frostbitten areas slowly until the skin appears flushed, then contact us immediately for further care.
If it is not possible to bring your pets indoors, make sure to provide suitable shelter in an area protected from wind, rain, sleet, and snow. Elevating your pet's shelter off the ground will prevent moisture accumulation. You can insulate the shelter by placing straw or blankets inside which will help maintain body heat. Do not, however, use a heat lamp, space heater, or other electrical device not approved for animal usage. This could present a burn hazard for your pet, or even a fire hazard!
Keep fresh water available at all times! A heated dish can be used to prevent water from freezing, but use caution and follow usage directions carefully. Make sure pet cannot chew the electrical cord. These dishes are available at most pet stores and farm stores.
Pets walking in snowy areas may accumulate large ice balls between the pads of their paws which can cause them to limp. Chemicals and salts used to de-ice walkways also pose a problem: they can cause paws to become dry, chapped, and painful. If pets lick the chemicals off their paws, it may cause stomach irritation, or even toxicity. Be sure to check the label prior to using any products, and check pets' paws often to keep them clean.
Cold, damp weather can also cause arthritis symptoms to flare up. To counter arthritis pain, handle your pet gently, go slow on icy walkways, provide soft bedding, and administer any necessary medications. If your pet is not currently on any medications and you feel he or she could benefit, please contact our office to consult with a doctor. Do not give any medications without checking with a doctor, as some medications humans take for pain relief cannot be metabolized by animals and result in toxic effects.
Often times during cold months, cats seek heat in the warm engine of a car. Before you start your car, knock on the hood and honk the horn to "scare off" animals and prevent tragedy.
Another hazard, which is actually year round, is antifreeze. Animals are attracted to the sweet smell and taste of antifreeze, and may ingest it if it is left out, or spilled. Antifreeze is highly toxic, rapidly absorbed, and therefore has high potential to be fatal. Initial signs appear about one hour after ingestion. Symptoms to look for include: stumbling, vomiting, and depression. Ultimately, antifreeze ingestion causes kidney failure. Time is crucial; success of treatment is dependent upon fast action to seek treatment. There is a pet-friendly alternative to antifreeze called propylene glycol.
'Tis the season...for runny noses and upset stomachs! make sure to keep your medications for cold and flu season stored in a secure places. Pets metabolize medications different than humans do which makes many common human medications extremely dangerous to pets. Do not medicate your animal yourself unless under the direction of your veterinarian.
Rat and mouse killers are another major hazard for pets. The chemicals in the products are designed to kill rodents, which means they can cause similar damage in dogs and cats. They are highly toxic, and all-to-often fatal. Use caution when placing these products around your house, and make sure they are not accessible by pets. Considering using an alternative rodenticide such as spring loaded traps or glue traps. You will still need to be cautious about placement!
There are several plants and items associated with cold weather months which can be hazardous, and even poisonous to pets. Briefly, this includes poinsettia leaves, balsam/pine/cedar/fir trees, Christmas tree preservatives, snow sprays, ornaments, tinsel, holly berries, bubbling lights, mistletoe, etc. Basically, anything that can irritate eyes, skin, and/or stomach is hazardous to pets. These items also have the potential to cause obstructions in the stomach, and broken objects can even pierce the stomach causing internal bleeding. Be aware of frayed light cords which cause electrical shock or burns.
Our pets are a part of the family, and we want them to share in the joy of the holidays. Holiday celebrations include delicious feasts and delectable treats, but it is important to remember that your pet should not partake. Just like medication, pets process and digest food much differently from the way you and I do. Common foods such as grapes, raisins, nuts, and onions can cause pets' organs to shut down! Another big danger is chocolate. People underestimate the toxicity of chocolate; if your pet ingests too much chocolate, it can result in vomiting, diarrhea, panting, excessive thirst, urination, and hyperactivity,
and in severe cases, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors and seizures. In the spirit of celebration, you may think of offering your pet the spare bones from the ham, chicken, etc. Please beware that the bones present a choking hazard. Once ingested, bones tend to splinter off in the digestive system which can cause obstruction and perforation. For additional hazardous human foods, check out this ASPCA article. Please provide your pet with goodies specifically designed for your pet to keep them safe, happy, and healthy!
Please heed the cautions of this article so you and your pets can enjoy a safe and happy season! If you have any questions at all, please do not hesitate to contact our office.