There are a number of winter specific problems that can affect your pets:
- A snow-cleared path can be paved with problems for your pet. Salt-based snow and ice melters may be effective, but they can also be dangerous to your four-legged friend. Playing in treated snow can allow salt crystals to lodge between the pads of your dog's paws, causing skin irritation. If ingested, your pet may experience gastrointestinal upsets that lead to diarrhea or vomiting. Be sure to clean your pet's paws when returning from a walk. To keep your walkways clear and your dog safe during daily romps in the snow, use a nontoxic, salt-free melting product.
- Antifreeze poisoning is common in winter. Even a small amount of antifreeze is extremely toxic. It has a sweet taste that attracts animals, but it can cause permanent kidney damage or death. The lethal dose is 1 teaspoon per 2 pounds of body weight. Don't let animals drink from puddles and make sure to clean paws when a pet comes in from the outdoors.
- Don't leave your pet alone in the car. Carbon monoxide from an engine left running is dangerous. In addition, a running car is a target for thieves. Your car can be replaced, but your pet is irreplaceable. And a car can act as a refrigerator in the winter, holding in the cold and causing the animal to freeze to death.
- Never let your dog off the leash on snow or ice especially during a snowstorm. Dogs can lose their scent and easily become lost. More dogs are lost during the winter than during any other season so make sure yours always wears ID tags.
- Ensure that your pet has plenty of water. Winter air can be very drying, leaving pets dehydrated just as can happen during the hot summer months.
- Prolonged exposure to cold weather, especially accompanied by high winds (the wind chill factor), can lower the body temperature. This is called hypothermia, a condition that can interfere with normal bodily functions and result in injury or death. Pets can also suffer from frostbite which occurs when skin dies from the cold.
- Never shave your dog down to the skin in winter as a longer coat will provide more warmth. When you bathe your dog in the colder months, be sure to completely dry him before taking him out for a walk. Own a short-haired breed? Consider getting him a coat or sweater with a high collar or turtleneck with coverage from the base of the tail to the belly. For many dogs, this is regulation winter wear.
- Dogs walking across ice-covered lakes have been known to fall through the ice and become submerged in freezing water. Drowning is likely if the pet does not get help. If pulled from the water, the animal is at risk for hypothermia if not quickly and correctly warmed.
- During the winter, outdoor cats sometimes crawl under the hoods of cars for warmth but a car’s fan belt can kill or injure an animal when the motor starts. If there are outdoor or feral cats in your neighborhood, bang on the hood of the car and wait a few seconds before turning on the engine.
- Keep your cat inside. Outdoors, felines can freeze, become lost or be stolen, injured or killed. Cats who are allowed to stray are exposed to infectious diseases, including rabies, from other cats, dogs and wildlife.