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Winter Weather Hazards

Keeping Pets Safe and Comfortable

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Spadge in the snow © The Silver Penguin on Flickr

Spadge in the snow

© The Silver Penguin on Flickr
As winter settles in, here are a few tips to remember to ensure a healthy season. As most pet lovers know, winter can be a challenge for our pets. This article will explore some common dangers to watch for, and what to do to avoid problems. (Summer where you are? Check out the Summer Safety article from your Guide.)

Antifreeze (Ethylene Glycol)
This is actually a winter and summer potential problem. Cats and dogs are attracted to the sweet smell and taste of antifreeze, and will often sample some if left out in a container or spilled on the garage floor.

Antifreeze is highly toxic - it is rapidly absorbed (initial signs appear approximately one hour post-ingestion), and there is a high mortality rate. Other sources of this deadly chemical are: heat exchange fluids (sometimes used in solar collectors), some brake and transmissions fluids as well as diethylene glycol used in color film processing.

Acute cases (within 12 hours of ingestion) often present as if the animal was intoxicated with alcohol: stumbling, vomiting and depression are common signs. The kidneys are most severely affected, and even if the animal seems to improve initially with treatment, they may succumb shortly after to kidney failure. The kidneys shut down, and the animal is unable to produce urine. This type of kidney failure usually happens 12-24 hours after ingestion in cats, and 36-72 hours post ingestion in dogs. Success of treatment is dependent upon quick treatment. If you suspect that your animal has come into contact with antifreeze, contact your veterinarian immediately.

A safe alternative to Ethylene Glycol antifreeze is available, it is called propylene glycol, and while it does cost a small amount more than 'regular' antifreeze, it is worth the piece of mind.

Arthritis and Winter
Cold, damp weather aggravates arthritis in dogs and cats. Arthritis can appear in young pets, but is most common in the middle age and geriatric pets. A fracture can also make the bone susceptible to arthritis after the injury is healed. Overweight pets suffer from arthritis more than their normal-weight counterparts.

If your pet is having trouble getting up or laying down, navigating the stairs, or has started to snap or cry when picked up, a visit to the veterinarian is in order. Many new arthritis treatments are available, both natural and medicinal.

NEVER medicate your dog with human prescription or over-the-counter medications without consulting your veterinarian first! One Tylenol™ tablet can be fatal to a cat.

The Outdoor Pet
If you pet is housed outside, make sure that adequate shelter is provided -- to shield from wind, moisture, and cold. Take extra care to ensure that your pet is comfortable and can get into and out of their housing easily.

Several pet and feed stores carry safe heated floor mats or non-electric warm bedding. Deeply bedded straw is another good insulator.

Do not use a heat lamp or other type of home heater - this is dangerous, and is the cause of many fires.

Pets need to have fresh water at all times - make sure the water is not frozen during this time of year. Contrary to what some people think, animals do not know how to break the ice. (OK, some may have learned this trick, but they are in the minority). Heated pet bowls are a solution for frigid temperatures. These bowls are very handy to have during the cold winter months, and are available in stainless steel or plastic. You can find them at most pet supply vendors and feed stores.

Pets that live outdoors may need additional food (calories) to sustain body temperature as well. Please check with your veterinarian to decide if your pet needs additional nutritional intake.

Staying Fit
As always, exercise is important. If there is snow on the ground, check your pet's paws for ice balls or injuries. Rinse feet off if your pet has walked where de-icers have been used. Some de-icers are toxic when ingested (when pet licks paws). If your pet is having difficulty exercising due to depth of snow, slick icy surfaces, or appears to be winded, shorten the usual exercise times and monitor for any unusual signs.

Shop for pet safe de-icer:

Top Winter Items for Pets
Pets in harsh winter climates need extra protection during the snowy, icy winter months. These winter pet items will help keep snow and ice at bay and ensure your pet's comfort and safety.

Text: Copyright © Janet Tobiassen Crosby. All rights reserved.

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