It’s winter! Whether we have a lot of snow or not, it’s a beautiful time of year that brings with it some potential health concerns for pets.
• Antifreeze toxicity. Antifreeze solution from vehicles is poisonous to your dog or cat. It’s sweet and tasty and VERY dangerous if ingested; life-threatening in fact.
If you have antifreeze spills of your own, be sure to clean them up very well and don’t leave open containers laying around. If you’re on a walk, don’t let your dog off the leash to run around and sniff and eat things. If you think your pet has drank or licked some antifreeze, call your veterinarian immediately. Signs of antifreeze poisoning are initially vomiting, acting drunk, urinating and drinking more, and later on extreme fatigue and a painful abdomen. Please be very careful to keep your pet from this toxin.
• Cold temperatures. It seems we haven’t been getting the brutally cold temperatures anymore, (think minus forty on the prairies), but hypothermia and frostbite can still occur. Warm sweaters or jackets and boots will help dogs with thin/sparse hair coats.
Make sure pets that live outdoors year round have shelter and bedding. Many heavy-coated winter breeds love the cold winters and the snow and would be worse off if they were inside, but they still need shelter.
It’s also important to feed enough to outdoor pets, as keeping warm burns up a lot of calories.
• Snowballs between toes! If your dog or cat has very hairy feet, he or she may have a problem with snow building up between the toes. While not serious, it can be uncomfortable and lead to red, cracked skin or pads. This snow accumulation can be prevented by having your pet wear boots or by helping to melt and remove the snow as soon as the pet comes indoors. Using petrolatum jelly on the skin and hair before an outdoor walk on a snowy day will also help to prevent the problem.
• Toxic indoor plants. Maybe your cat is bored being cooped up indoors and maybe he really wants to eat grass. More cases of plant toxicity happen in the winter. Supply cat grass for indoor cats, and make sure house plants are non-toxic. To name a few (but there are many more): Poinsettias, Dracaena, and many types of lilies are poisonous plants for your pet.
• Getting enough exercise and not overeating. It happens to all of us. It’s not as easy to move around or go out for a walk with the snow, the cold, the ice, the busy times in winter. Eating comfort food makes us warm and comfortable. So we gain weight. Remember to make time to take your dog for a walk or play with your cat. And unless your pet is living outside in the cold or working hard every day, if you cut back on his daily calories by 25%, he will come through the winter in a sleeker condition. Good advice for pets and their people!
• Winter accidents. Be careful when skiing and snowshoeing that you always know where your dog is beside you. Skiis can be very sharp.
Be extra careful when driving at night, as it may be more difficult to see animals on the streets if there are a lot of bright lights, exhaust from vehicles, and snowbanks.
Have winter fun and be safe!