With cold weather well underway here in Grand Junction, Colorado, it is time to talk about winter safety for your pets. Cold weather can be brutal on all of us. It can be tough on our pets and livestock that rely on us to protect them from cold temperatures. Please review our following cold weather safety tips to help prevent cold weather dangers from affecting your pet’s health.
Cold Weather Tolerance
Just like people, a pet’s cold tolerance can vary based on their general health, how much body fat they currently have, and how much fur they have.
Long-haired or thick-coated dogs tend to be more cold-tolerant but are still at risk in cold weather. Short-haired pets feel the cold faster because they have less protection. Short-legged pets may become cold more quickly because their bellies and bodies are more likely to contact the snow-covered ground.
Pets with diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, or hormonal imbalances can have difficulty regulating their body temperature. They can be more susceptible to problems from temperature extremes. The same goes for very young and older pets. If you need help determining your pet’s temperature limits, give us a call.
Cold Weather Safety for Walks
Exposure to winter’s dry, cold air and chilly rain, sleet, and snow can cause chapped paws and itchy, flaking skin. Additionally, winter walks can become dangerous if pets are exposed to toxic elements. To help prevent cold weather dangers from affecting your pet’s health, please keep this information in mind:
Keep your pet indoors as much as possible.
We recommend always keeping cats inside (unless you have a secure outdoor cat enclosure for use during nice weather, or you take your cat on walks using a harness). Accompany your dog outdoors when they need to relieve themselves or get some exercise. Keep in mind that if you get cold and want to go back inside, chances are, your dog is getting too cold as well.
Wipe down your pet with a towel immediately when they come in from the outside.
Repeatedly coming into the heat of your house after being out in the cold can cause itchy, flaking skin. Towel-drying your pet as soon as they come helps prevent dry skin. Please pay special attention to their feet and in-between the toes. Remove any snowballs from between footpads.
Let your pet’s coat grow.
Never shave your dog or cat in the winter. A longer coat will provide more warmth. If your dog is long-haired, simply trim him to minimize the amount of clinging ice balls, salt crystals, and de-icing chemicals that can dry his skin. If your dog is short-haired, consider getting him a coat or sweater with a high collar or turtleneck with coverage from the base of the tail to the belly.
Bathe your pets as little as possible during cold spells.
Washing too often can remove essential oils and increase the chance of developing dry, flaky skin. If you need to bathe your pet, ask your vet to recommend a moisturizing shampoo or rinse.
Protect their paw pads.
You can purchase paw balms to rub onto your pet’s paw pads before going outside to protect them from the cold, salt and chemicals. Booties provide even more coverage and prevent sand and salt from getting stuck between bare toes, irritating them.
Watch for signs that your pet is getting too cold.
If your pet is whining, shivering, appearing anxious, slowing down or stopping, or looking for a warm place to burrow you need to bring them inside.
Be watchful with your dog near water.
If you live near a pond, lake, or another water source that tends to freeze over during cold weather, take care when letting your dog off the leash. Animals can easily fall through the ice, and it’s challenging for them to escape on their own or for humans to rescue them.
Additional Cold Weather Safety Tips
Watch for winter toxins.
Coolant or antifreeze is a lethal poison for dogs and cats. Unfortunately, both dogs and cats are attracted to its taste. It is critical that you thoroughly clean up any spills from your vehicle and consider using products that contain propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol.
Ice melts, often used for walkways, streets, etc., often contain salt. If a pet ingests small amounts of salt, it typically leads to stomach upset. More significant ingestions may quickly cause salt poisoning, resulting in a rapid onset of vomiting, excessive thirst, and seizures. If your pet has consumed any amount of ice melt, call for help.
You may need to feed your pet a little bit more during cold weather months.
If your pet goes outside during the winter months, they will burn extra energy by trying to stay warm. Feeding your pet, a little bit more during the cold weather months can provide some much-needed calories. Also, ensure they have plenty of water to drink to keep them well-hydrated and their skin less dry.
Make sure your pet has a warm place to sleep.
Have a warm place for your pet to sleep off the floor and away from all drafts. A cozy dog or cat bed with a warm blanket or pillow is perfect.
Cold Weather Safety Tips for Horses and Livestock
At Amigo Animal Clinic, we provide a wide range of services for horses and livestock animals. We provide veterinary care for horses, cows, goats, pigs, and sheep. As they are outdoors, even more attention needs to be given to them to protect them from cold weather hardships.
Provide adequate shelter. If you do not have an indoor shelter, you can use windbreaks such as a row of trees or a fence.
Provide extra feed. As mentioned above, animals need more food to keep their bodies warm during cold temperatures. This fact is especially applicable for horses and livestock.
Protect them from slipping on ice. Cover concrete floors and outdoor pens with wood chips, gravel, or sand to prevent them from falling and getting injured.
Watch for and prevent frostbite. Pay close attention to newborns and young animals needing to keep them warm and dry as they can get frostbite more easily. Here are some links for more information: Preventing and Treating Hypothermia and Frostbite and Winter Weather Livestock Tips
Be ready for extreme cold weather. If you are expecting freezing weather, have a plan for how you will get to and feed your livestock. You can also provide straw, water, and hay in various places if the animals are unable to go inside for shelter.
Wishing You the Best Holiday Season
Winter is a beautiful time of the year and full of holidays. For a refresher on our holiday safety, please read our blog on Holiday Hazards for Pets here. By following our winter and holiday safety tips, you and your pets can enjoy the holidays together.
Feel free to contact us if you have any questions; we are here to service you and your pets with any veterinary needs you might have. The end of the year is also a great time to have your pet get an annual wellness check, so schedule an appointment with us today.
Dr. Dominic Carrica DVM
Amigo Animal Clinic
Grand Junction, Colorado