The key misconception about winter and pets is the belief that pets are able to withstand the cold better than
humans since they are covered in fur. This is not the case. Companion animals are accustomed to the warmth of
indoor shelter and the cold weather can be as hard on your pets as it is on you. Allowing your pets to be outside
for long periods of time during harsh weather can be very hazardous for them.
Tips for Indoor Winter Safety:
1. If you use a space heater or light a fire, watch your pets closely. They are as attracted to the warmth as you are, so make sure that their tails or paws do not come in contact with flames, heating coils, or hot surfaces that can cause severe burns. Also, if your pet knocks over a heating source, your entire house is in danger of catching fire and going up in flames.
2. Have your furnace checked for carbon monoxide leakage before you first turn it on, both for your safety and the safety of your pets. Carbon monoxide is odourless and invisible, but it can cause problems ranging from headaches and fatigue to trouble breathing, and even death.
3. Provide your pet with a thick, soft bed in a warm room on chilly nights.
Tips for Outdoor Winter Safety
Follow these guidelines to protect your pets in cold weather:
1. Don’t let winter stop you from heading outside with your pets in the winter. A brisk walk is great for your health and your pet’s health! Just make sure to bundle up the kids and yourself, so that you can keep warm while outside. Use a reflective leash and collar so that you can spot your pet easily if it’s dark outside or if the snow is deep. Coats and boots should be a must for dogs on really cold days.
2. Keep pets indoors as much as possible in extremely cold weather. When they go out, stay with them. If you are cold enough to go in, your pet is probably ready to return inside too.
3. Make sure that your pet always has fresh, non-frozen drinking water. When animals don’t have regular access to clean water, they will turn to gutters and puddles where there is a strong likelihood that they will ingest deadly antifreeze, oil and other chemicals.
4. Your pet’s health can also affect how long he or she can stay outdoors. Pets with conditions like diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, and hormonal imbalances can compromise their ability to regulate their own body heat so they should only be outside for a short time.
5. Puppies and senior pets are especially vulnerable to the cold. The cold can be really hard on the joints of older animals that are stiff and tender. Stay directly behind older pets when they are climbing stairs. Stiff and arthritic pets can experience significant injury if they slip on ice, so beware of conditions when you walk them.
6. If you live near a pond or lake, be very careful of ice. Animals can easily fall through the ice and can rarely climb out on their own. Keep your pet on a leash and stay with them when outdoors, particularly if you live near water.
7. Rock salt, ice, and chemical ice can get trapped in a dog’s foot pads. Keep your pet’s pads from getting chapped and raw by putting booties or a balm on their paws before heading outside, and clean them well with a warm washcloth when they come back inside.
8. Beware of your pet becoming trapped while trying to stay warm. Animals left outdoors can be very resourceful in trying to find shelter. They will dig into snow banks and dive under porches, into window wells, and cellars where they can become stuck. Always provide warm, accessible shelter and watch them closely. Attaching a bell to their collar is also recommended.
Winter Gear: If your dog will tolerate them, use booties to protect their paws from cold, chemicals, and salt. Booties will also keep your dog from licking the salt off his or her feet, which can cause inflammation of the digestive track. Also, if your dog will tolerate a sweater or coat, use one to provide added warmth. However, please remember that pets lose most of their body heat through the pads of their feet, their ears, and their respiratory tract. Some cats like to venture outside too (even in the winter), so it’s wise to put a coat or sweater on them as well.
Symptoms of Cold. When outdoors with your pet, watch for the following signs:
• Whining • Shivering • Appearing anxious • Slowing down • Stopping movement • Looking for places to burrow
If you notice any of these signs, take your pet back inside immediately and wrap them in a warm towel. TIP: Throw a blanket or a towel in the dryer for one minute before wrapping them up.
Keep an eye out for two serious conditions in pets that are caused by cold weather:
Frostbite happens when an animal’s (or person’s) body gets so cold it pulls all the blood from extremities to the body’s core to stay warm. An animal’s ears, paws, and tail can get so cold that ice crystals form in the tissue and damaging it. Frostbite can be tricky because it is not immediately obvious. Sometimes the tissue doesn’t show signs of damage for several days. If you suspect your pet may have frostbite, contact your veterinarian immediately.
Hypothermia is body temperature that is below normal. This condition occurs when an animal is unable to keep its body temperature from falling below normal. This could be due to spending too much time in the cold temperatures, or being exposed to the cold when your pet is in poor health or suffering from poor circulation. In mild cases, the animal will shiver and show signs of depression, lethargy, and weakness. As the condition progresses, muscles will stiffen, the heart and breathing rates slow, and the animal will stop responding to stimuli.
What to Do for Hypothermia:
1. Get your pet indoors immediately.
2. Wrap your pet in warm blankets and take him/her to the veterinarian. Your veterinarian, will if necessary, will monitor your pet’s heart rate and blood pressure and give warm fluids through an IV.
TIP: Do you know where your nearest emergency veterinarian clinic is? Is there a 24-hour clinic close to where you live? If you don’t know, then now is an excellent time to find out. Post the information on your fridge and add it to your cellphone. Don’t wait until you have an emergency with your pet to look for the nearest services.
How long can should you leave you dog outside in winter? You should never leave your pet outdoors for long periods of time in below freezing temperatures. Small dogs or those that lack thick, long fur can tolerate less cold than breeds such as Huskies. If you are cold, it is likely that your pet is cold too. Bring them inside the moment you start to feel cold yourself. Also, be sure to provide a warm shelter for your dog to use anytime they are outdoors.
You’ll find everything you need in Global Pet Foods stores across Canada that will help to keep dogs and cats warm this winter. From clothing to sweaters, boots to paw salves, beds and supplements to assist in keeping their coats lustrous and healthy, we have what you and your pets need. To find a Global Pet Foods store near you, visit www.globalpetfoods.com.
Don’t let the cold keep you indoors. Both you and your pets need the exercise. Just make sure that you take the proper precautions before heading outside and keep an eye on your pets for signs when it’s time to go back inside.
Stay healthy this winter, and stay safe.