While we on the west coast are contending with a very robust El Nino rainy season, we aren’t complaining after so many years of drought. But it does make dog walks and exercising extra challenging. But for most of the rest of the country dealing with harsh and cold winter weather is even more difficult. So today when we received a press release from the Central Veterinary Associates in Long Island, NY we thought that they had many good ideas to help you prepare for wintery conditions.
● Always Dry Off: When your dog comes in from the snow, ice or sleet, be sure to thoroughly wipe down their paws and stomach. He or she may have rock salt, antifreeze or other potentially dangerous chemicals on their paws which, if ingested, can cause severe stomach problems. Antifreeze should especially be watched for as it can lead to kidney failure. In addition, paw pads may get cut from hard snow or encrusted ice, so it’s important to check them over and treat them accordingly.
● Hold Off on Haircuts: Save for extreme circumstances, you should never shave down your dog during the winter. Their long, thick coats are vital for protection from the cold. If you have a short-haired breed, consider getting him a coat or a sweater with a high collar or turtleneck with coverage from the base of the tail to the belly.
● Keep Bedtime Warm: Make sure your dog has a warm place to sleep, off the floor and away from all drafty areas. A cozy pet bed with a warm blanket or pillow is ideal.
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● Bathroom Breaks: If you have a puppy or aging pet that may be sensitive to the cold, it may be difficult to take them outside. Use wee-pads or old newspapers to train puppies or to allow older pets to relieve themselves.
● Bring Pets Inside: If domesticated animals are left outdoors during winter months, they run the risk of health conditions caused by extreme temperatures. Cats are especially susceptible as they have free reign of the outdoors, and become lost during a storm, or taken in by a neighbor. In similar fashion to summer months, you should never leave your pet alone in a car in cold weather, as they could freeze and develop serious cold-related health conditions.
● Keep a Short Leash: Never let your dog off the leash on snow or ice, especially during a snowstorm as they can lose their scent and easily become lost. More dogs are lost during the winter than any other season, so make sure that your dog always wears his identification tags. It is highly recommended that all pets are outfitted with a microchipping device, which it makes available as part of a low-cost service.
● Check Your Engine: As you’re getting into your car in the morning, bang loudly on the hood of the car before getting in. Outdoor cats and wild animals like to sleep under cars or within the engine compartment or wheel base, as the engines keep the vehicle warm long after the car is parked. However, once the car is started or in motion, the cat can be injured or killed by the fan belt or tires.
● Clean Up Spills: If you spill any antifreeze or winter-weather windshield fluid, be sure to clean it up immediately. Pets, especially cats, are enticed by the sweet-tasting liquid, but it is poisonous. Ingesting antifreeze leads to potentially life-threatening illness in all animals, domesticated or otherwise. If possible, use products that contain propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol.
Also, Dr. Aaron Vine, DVM, Vice President, Central Veterinary Associates adds that, “It is very important to keep your pet safe and healthy during the winter season, especially during storms like the one in the forecast this weekend. The extreme cold may have an adverse effect on your pet’s health, so pet owners must take the necessary precautions for their pets when bringing them outside. It is especially important during extreme weather circumstances to ensure that your pet is microchipped, which makes it easier to locate them. In the event they become ill as a result of being exposed to the elements, please bring them to a veterinarian immediately.”