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Pet Peeves: Winter Safety Tips for Pets

As fun as the snow may be to play in, it's important to keep our pet's safety in mind.
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto
Young Golden Retriever sitting at the snow on sunny winter day.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich — As the cold days of winter come upon us, BluePearl Specialty and Emergency Pet Hospital recommends taking certain precautions to ensure your pet doesn’t suffer from cold-temperature related injuries.

Dr. Christine Swanson with BluePearl Specialty and Emergency Pet Hospital of Grand Rapids, offered advice ranging from frostbite prevention, de-icer poisoning, and more.

Antifreeze is highly toxic to people and animals. Cats and dogs are attracted to its sweet smell and taste, and will often sample some if left out in a container or spilled on the garage floor. If you suspect that your pet has come into contact with antifreeze, contact your veterinarian immediately. The success of treatment to antifreeze exposure depends on quick action.

Dogs and cats get frostbite! Any dog or cat who is exposed to very cold temperatures for more than brief periods of time can develop frostbite. If pets begin to shiver or their ears, tail, and feet show signs of frostbite such as redness in the early stages and pale, white or patches in more advanced cases of frostbite, bring them inside immediately.

Similar to when it is hot outside, never leave your pet alone in a car during cold weather either. In the winter, a car holds in the cold like a refrigerator and your pet could potentially freeze to death.

When outside, ice and snow can accumulate between your pet’s toes causing irritation and pain. In addition, de-icers that are used to clear roadways, sidewalks and driveways can cause a lot of irritation to their paws. Worse, pets can become ill if they lick these chemicals off of their feet. Prevent these issues by rinsing and/or wiping your pet’s feet when they come in from being outdoors. If possible, purchase pet-safe salted de-icers for your entryway.

Especially in the winter, when ice and snow can mask scents and pets can more easily lose their way, it is important that they always wear identification tags.

Much like humans, damp and cold weather can aggravate symptoms associated with arthritis in dogs and cats. If your pet is having trouble getting up or laying down, walking the stairs, or has started to cry when being picked up, a visit to the veterinarian is in order. Never medicate your dog or cat with human prescriptions or over-the-counter medications without consulting your veterinarian first. Most of them are toxic for pets; numerous arthritis treatments are available for them. Also, your dog or cat deserves a comfortable bed. Several pet and feed stores carry safe heated floor mats or non-electric warm bedding.

Pets need to have fresh water at all times. If you leave water outside for your pets, be sure it is does not freeze.

Outdoors on cold days, animals may seek shelter near something warm like a car engine. If an animal is near the engine when the car is started, serious injury can occur.

Starting a car to warm it up in a garage will trap carbon monoxide. It can only take a few minutes for a small pet to die in a sealed garage with a car running.

Ponds, rivers and lakes are hazardous for pets in winter as the ice covering them may not be solid. There may be thicker ice at the shoreline, but it may be too thin to hold up a pet or person further out. Keep pets and people away from such dangers. If they do fall in, call for help quickly! Unfortunately, people trying to rescue their best friends can endanger themselves as well.

“Your family veterinarian is the first line of defense when an emergency occurs. Keep contact information readily available at home and on your cell phone contacts list," Swanson said. "If your pet is experiencing a medical emergency and taking your pet to your family veterinarian isn’t practical, doctors from BluePearl Specialty and Emergency Pet Hospital are always standing by to help."


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