The weather outside can still be still frightful. Here are tips to keep your pets safe in the cold.
If it’s cold enough outside, dogs and cats can get frostbitten. Most susceptible are the tips their ears and tails. Dogs with long ears, like Basset Hounds and Weimaraners, are most at risk.
While most dogs wear their own winter coats, when the temperatures dips below around freezing, small dogs need a little help to keep warm. The smaller the dog, the more difficulty maintaining body temperature, which is why a coat or sweater is a good idea for pups under around 20 lbs. Sight hounds have a problem many readers of this story may resent – they have too little body fat to protect against the cold. That’s why breeds including Greyhounds, Salukis and Whippets also need winter-wear to keep them cozy.
Of course, some dogs relish the cold. After all, breeds such as Malamutes, Siberian Huskies and Samoyeds sometimes prefer zero degrees to being indoors. Still, if even an Arctic dog is going to be kept outdoors for any period of time – theses cold-weather canines require unfrozen drinking water (you can buy water bowls with heaters to prevent freezing) and shelter from wind and snow.
Little booties may not appear macho – but sled dogs even wear them. Because dogs perspire some from their paws, little ice balls can form between the paw pads – and that can’t be too pleasant. Also with paws unprotected, it can hurt to walk on street salt (there is pet friendly salt, but unfortunately that’s not what most people buy, partly because it’s more expensive).
Other options to prevent the ice balls and deter street salt from sticking to the pads are to spray (unflavored) Pam (no-stick cooking spray) on your dog’s paws or use a product called Musher’s Secret (available online and at many pet stores). Wipe the dog’s paws with a towel before coming indoors to protect your carpet and also to remove any remaining street salt residue.
As for cats, there are always dangers to being outdoors, but that’s particularly true when temperatures dip. The good news is that cats are pretty resourceful at finding warmth. But that’s also the bad news. To a cat seeking heat, a warm car hood is easy to find, and like a cozy electric blanket to slink into. As a result, veterinarians in cold weather climates treat cats seriously mangled (some don’t survive) when people innocently start their engines. It’s not a bad idea to follow Tony Orlando’s advice; knock three times on the car hood in the morning before turning on the ignition.
Desperate for water which isn’t frozen, cats kept outside may drink anything they can find. And antifreeze is always tempting to lap up for most pets. While pet friendly anti-freeze may be safe, most antifreeze is deadly. Less than a quarter a cup of antifreeze can kill a Great Dane, and a teaspoon’s worth can end the life of a small dog or a cat. Seek out antifreeze brands which contain bittering agents which makes it taste awful so pets aren’t tempted to sample.
Some family cats or dogs live in garages (never a good idea), or pets can accidently find their way inside a closed garage when a car is being warmed up. As a result pets can suffer carbon monoxide poisoning. It only takes is around 10 minutes for a 10 lb. pet to die in sealed off garage with a car running and no way out.
A common concern, particularly as the weather wavers from just below freezing up to the 30’s, are ponds, rivers and lakes, particularly retention ponds in condominium complexes. The ice may not be as solid as you think. Dogs are as susceptible to hypothermia as people. Dogs who fall into freezing water may die. Unfortunately, so may people attempting to rescue their best friends. On larger bodies of water, another concern is a confused dog taking off in the wrong direction, away from the shore. While the water may be frozen at the shoreline, it may not be further out.
Where there are snowdrifts, some dogs avoid them. Other dogs love bounding into the snow – which is generally just fine. But jumping in and out of snow isn’t like walking down the street, and dogs can pull muscles they’re not accustomed to using. The rule is simply not to allow the pup to overdo it. Some dogs just don’t when to stop, and it’s up to their people to step in to prevent injuries and to keep them safe.
©Steve Dale, Tribune Media Services