Winter can be hard on everyone. Cold temperatures and inclement weather often create dangerous conditions. While you’re looking out for your own well-being this winter season, make sure you remember to look out for your pets, too. They need more than just fur to stay healthy and safe in the cold.
Here are 10 wintertime dangers for your pet you should consider.
1. Insufficient Shelter
Pets that spend a lot of time outdoors need well-constructed weatherproof shelters to stay out of the cold. Make sure your shelter is free of drafts and position the entrance away from the wind.
The larger the shelter, the harder it will be to retain heat. Thick bedding for the floor of the shelter will help with insulation and keep your pet more comfortable.
Once temperatures start to dip, you should keep your pets inside as much as possible.
2. Undernourishment and Dehydration
Keeping warm requires a decent amount of energy. The more time your dog or cat spends outside, the more food they should consume. A balanced diet will also help keep their coat healthy and their energy up.
Any water left outside in your pet’s water dish might freeze. Avoid metal bowls, as your pet’s tongue may get stuck! A heated or insulated bowl is one potential solution but always provide plenty of water inside to make sure they stay hydrated.
3. Dry Skin and Fur
Dry air leads to dry skin and fur for dogs, who may become itchy and begin to scratch and bite themselves. This can lead to the development of sores which, when exposed to more cold air will only become worse.
Brush your dog regularly to avoid dryness. If it occurs, you can give your dog fatty acid supplements or use specially formulated shampoos. Don’t wash too often, as this removes essential oils. Watch for flakes of dandruff as a telltale sign of dryness.
4. Hypothermia and Frostbite
A fur coat does not necessarily fully protect your dog or cat from winter weather. If your pet’s body temperature falls below normal for a period of time, hypothermia becomes a risk. This especially applies to pets who are older or already in poor health.
When body temperatures drop, blood is pulled away from extremities and towards the center of the body. Ears, paws and tails can rapidly develop frostbite. If you notice ice crystals on your pet, don’t touch them or try to remove them. Seek veterinary help right away.
A sweater or coat can help your pet retain body heat, especially if they are small or have short hair.
When snow and ice cover the ground, sunlight reflections become more severe and can damage your pet’s skin, especially on areas like the nose, ears and belly which often not protected by fur or dark skin. Your vet may suggest a pet-safe sunscreen, especially for light-furred and pale-skinned pets.
Vehicles may leak dangerous chemicals like antifreeze, which taste sweet but are incredibly toxic if your pet decides to lap it up from the garage floor. The best way to prevent this is to seek out green floor-cleaning equipment to properly clean your floors, as they use less corrosive chemicals and are better for the environment.
Be sure to supervise your pets around vehicles and roads where chemicals and salt accumulate, and seek veterinary assistance immediately if they consume any amount of toxic chemicals.
Cats are also prone to huddling under or in car engines for warmth. Always knock on the hood or honk before starting your car to avoid injury.
7. Frozen Bodies of Water
If you live near a pond, lake, creek or some other body of water, be sure to supervise your pets around these areas. If they fall through thin ice, they might become trapped. Worse, they could drown.
Pets can have a hard time escaping without help and may develop hypothermia or frostbite. Even exposure to unfrozen bodies of water can drastically reduce body temperatures for pets.
Keep your pet close by on walks and don’t step out onto the ice unless you know it is safe.
8. Space Heaters
If you’re using a space heater to keep your home warm this winter, consider putting it in an area that your dog doesn’t have access to.
Curious pets may burn themselves accidentally or even knock the heater over. This is a huge fire hazard.
A few precautions can help keep your pet safe and home warm.
If it is snowing heavily, do not let your dog or cat out alone. Blizzard conditions can be very disorienting for pets, with whiteouts obscuring vision and sense of smell. It doesn’t help that large snowplows are out on the road and their line of vision isn’t generally very good.
Dogs are especially prone to get lost in extreme winter weather. Keep your pet’s ID tags up-to-date and consider a microchip or tracker to keep track of their location.
10. Holiday Sweets
Winter has its fair share of holidays, and with those comes a fair share of goodies. Candy and chocolate contain chemicals that are difficult for dogs to process and can lead to serious illness or even death.
If you have leftover sweets from Christmas or receive Valentine’s Day candy, keep it well out of reach of any pets.
Your pet may need a little extra help to stay safe and healthy during the winter. Keep these dangers in mind and you can worry less about your furry friends and focus on having fun in the snow!
About the Author: Megan Wild is a pet-lover first, and a writer second. You can check out her pet home decor ideas on her blog, Your Wild Home.