FOOD AND WATER:
Staying warm requires extra calories, so feed your pet accordingly when the temperature drops. This can vary depending on how much time your cat or dog spends outdoors plus their activity level. Always have fresh, clean water available, and if your pet is kept outdoors, either check every few hours to make sure the water hasn’t frozen or invested in a heated water bowl. The wild birds will also appreciate this water source!
Indoors, a bed or crate in a warm, draft-free spot is best. Outdoors, cats and dogs need a warm, insulated house or shelter with sufficient elevation to keep out ground moisture. Some sort of door covering should be provided to keep out wind; canvas is excellent as it is not too heavy or intimidating. Dog houses, pens, or runs can be protected with stacked bales of straw to act as a wind block and provide additional insulation. A canvas “roof” completes this type of weather barrier. However, if wind chill or weather conditions become severe, bring all pets inside. They cannot withstand a combination of low temperature, wind, and precipitation!
Remove ice and snow from pets’ paws and fur at once. Frostbitten skin may turn reddish, white, or gray, and it may be scaly or actually slough. If frostbite is suspected, immediately take the dog or cat to a warm place and thaw the areas slowly by applying warm, moist towels that are changed frequently. Continue until the affected areas become flushed, and please contact your veterinarian right away.
SNOW AND ICE MELT PRODUCTS:
Many products sold to melt ice and snow have some toxicity for pets. Each time pets have been outside where snow-melt products might have been used, cats’ and dogs’ feet should be washed and dried because the residue that coats the pads or lodges between toes can cause chemical burns and/or poisoning when the pet licks his/her feet. There are several “safe paws” or “pet safe” products available for use around your own home, and carefully reading labels will help you choose.
Even a tiny amount of antifreeze, if swallowed, is fatal! Precautions are necessary with all antifreeze products because they have a sweet taste that attracts pets. When the air temperature is below freezing, standing water indicates antifreeze runoff or concentrated snow-melt chemical, so you should never allow your cat or dog to drink from these toxic puddles. If you even suspect your pet may have ingested antifreeze, call your veterinarian immediately since prompt treatment is crucial to saving a life.
Cats sometimes climb onto vehicle engines for warmth, and dogs will curl up on the ground underneath. Before starting your vehicle, knock on the hood and honk the horn. Even if your own pets don’t have access to your car or truck, a neighbor’s pet may have taken shelter there.
The doctors and staff of Linden Heights Animal Hospital hope these tips will help ensure your four-legged family members have a warm, safe, and happy Winter!