While it’s easy to think that dogs are immune to cold because of their fur, the fact is that more dogs perish in the winter than at any other time of the year. Some are better equipped to handle the cold weather than others. Frostbite, hypothermia and antifreeze poisoning present the biggest winter threats to pets.
By taking a few precautions and using common sense, pet owners can keep their dogs safe this winter.
Beware of cold temperatures. While many pets can be safe in outside temperatures with proper shelter, puppies, smaller dogs, older dogs and cats should not be left outdoors when the temperature falls below 40 degrees.
Keep older, arthritic pets inside. These animals should not be left outside under any circumstances. Escort the older dog outside for toileting and use a leash if the yard has ice or snow. Older dogs can easily fall and seriously injure themselves.
Watch for signs of frostbite and injury. Dogs’ ears, paws and tails are especially susceptible to frostbite. If you suspect frostbite, contact your veterinarian. If your dog plays on ice or hard, frozen dirt, his paws are susceptible to cuts as his paws slide across these rough surfaces. Always wipe your dog’s feet after a walk in the snow to remove ice balls and salt deposits from the road. Salt irritates a dog’s paws and can be toxic if ingested. Use only pet-safe ice melt.
Keep an eye out for hypothermia. If you notice shivering, lethargy, low heart rate and unresponsiveness, bring your pet into a warm area, place a light blanket over him, and call your veterinarian.
Eliminate the possibility of poisoning. Unfortunately, dogs like the sweet taste of antifreeze, which can cause sickness or even death if ingested. Make certain that all antifreeze containers are well out of reach of dogs and thoroughly clean any spills immediately.
Provide a protective shelter. If your dog or cat stays outside much of the time in the winter, his shelter needs to be raised a couple of inches off the frozen ground or concrete. The inside needs to have a blanket, cedar shavings or straw, which should be changed frequently to keep him warm and dry. Add a flap to the door, and face the shelter away from the weather. The size of the shelter should be large enough so your pet can sit and stand, but small enough so his body heat will be retained in the house. Use a plastic water bowl to ensure your pet’s tongue does not get stuck to cold metal, and change the water often to keep it from freezing.
Keep your dog on a leash. Dogs rely heavily on a strong sense of smell to figure out where they are and can easily get lost during winter storms. Snow covering the ground will make their surroundings less familiar. Keeping your dog on a leash at all times – especially during winter storms – can help stop your dog from becoming lost. Also talk to your veterinarian about micro-chipping your dog, just in case.
Don’t leave your dog inside of a parked car. Most people know this rule for the summer. A parked car can quickly amplify the effects of extreme weather. During the winter it can act as an icebox and trap cold air inside.
With the frigid temperatures quickly approaching, PASART encourages all residents of the Commonwealth to take precautions when using space heaters. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, in 2011, space heaters, whether portable or stationary, accounted for one-third of home heating fires and four out of five of home heating fire deaths.
The leading factor contributing to home heating fires was failure to properly clean heating equipment, primarily chimneys, before use. Placing things that can burn too close to heating equipment or placing heating equipment too close to things that can burn, such as upholstered furniture, clothing, mattress, or bedding, were among the leading factors contributing to ignition in fatal home heating fires and accounted for more than half of home heating fire death.
In the event of a fire, your pets need protection as much as the rest of the family. Here is a list of some things you can do in your home…
1. Be sure you have working smoke detectors on every level of your home.
2. Have an emergency exit plan that includes your pets, and practice the plan regularly.
e. Make sure pets always wear identification
Research a safe place to take your pets.
1. Assemble a disaster kit.
2. Give a key to a trusted neighbor.
3. Ask your local fire department if they carry pet oxygen masks on their fire trucks.
4. Listen to your dog.