Cold Weather Safety for Pets
Categories: Blog, Pet safety
As old man winter blows through the Garden State, cold, snow, and ice can bring a slew of dangers for your pet. While the dangers of cold temperatures may seem obvious, you may not be aware of some winter hazards. Keep your pet safe this winter by preventing these common dangers.
Hypothermia in Pets
Despite their thick fur, dogs and cats who are exposed to the cold are susceptible to dangerously low body temperatures. Hypothermia, which occurs when your pet’s body temperature dips below 100 degrees, can have frightening consequences. Hypothermia most commonly develops when pets are left outdoors during the winter, but can also develop in pets left in vehicles or outside in the rain. Pets who are young, old, or debilitated, or who have chronic diseases, are at an increased risk of developing hypothermia.
As a pet’s body temperature falls, clinical signs of hypothermia develop, which may include:
Progressive body-temperature decline causes worsening clinical signs, and coma or death can occur if you do not recognize the signs and get prompt help for your pet.
To prevent hypothermia, keep a close eye on your pet when temperatures drop, and follow these tips:
- Decreased heart rate
- Difficulty breathing
- Outdoors — Limit your pet’s outdoor time when the temperature falls below freezing.
- Quick potty breaks and short walks are safest. If you are concerned about your pet missing exercise, devise fun indoor activities.
- Don’t leave your pet outside in the rain—a wet pet can develop hypothermia much faster than a dry pet.
- Never house your pet outdoors in extreme temperatures. She deserves to curl up in the comfort of your home, not shiver outside in the cold.
- Your car — Never leave your pet locked inside a parked vehicle, regardless of the temperature. Summer’s heat can quickly cause heatstroke, and cold weather can be equally dangerous.
Antifreeze Toxicity in Pets
Many people use antifreeze products to keep their car engines and windshields from freezing during the winter months. Unfortunately, most antifreeze products contain ethylene glycol, a chemical that is extremely toxic to dogs and cats when ingested. Your pet may willingly lick up the sweet liquid, which causes acute onset of severe kidney failure in cats who drink as little as one teaspoon, and dogs who drink only one to two tablespoons.
Only hours after ingestion, pets display illness signs, such as incoordination, vomiting, increased thirst, or seizures. If they do not receive immediate treatment, initial signs progress to calcium-oxalate crystal formation in their kidneys, causing kidney failure that can quickly progress to death. Treatment for ethylene glycol ingestion must be administered within hours of ingestion to reverse the toxin’s effects. If you think your pet has ingested antifreeze, or if she is acting strangely, do not delay—contact us or the nearest emergency veterinary hospital immediately for treatment.
Preventing antifreeze ingestion is much easier than treating toxicity. Keep all antifreeze products out of your pet’s reach, and clean up spills immediately. Never let your pet roam free, because she could ingest ethylene glycol or other toxins in your neighborhood.
Ice-melt Toxicity in Pets
Ice-melt products are made of salt compounds, such as sodium, potassium, or magnesium chloride; calcium salts; or urea, which can cause salt toxicity when eaten. Your pet is most likely to ingest salt compounds when she grooms herself after walking or playing outdoors, and accidentally eats salt crystals clinging to her feet and fur. Ingesting a small amount, such as from grooming, can cause only mild gastrointestinal irritation, but larger amounts can cause more severe effects. Store all ice-melt products safely out of your pet's reach, and do not spread them in areas she frequents. After walking her outside, wipe off her feet and fur so she does not accidentally ingest a toxic dose of salt.
Frozen Ponds and Pets
Each year, tragic stories circulate about pets who fall through pond ice and drown. Never walk on frozen ponds, lakes, or rivers, because the ice may not be thick enough to support your weight. Keep your pet on a leash at all times so she does not unknowingly wander onto snow-covered ice, or chase another animal to a dangerous location. If your pet does fall through thin ice, call for professional help and resist trying to save her yourself.
Contact us if you have questions about keeping your pet safe this winter, or if you think she has been affected by the cold weather.