The holidays are meant to be a relaxing, festive time for you and your family, but chilly weather and snow can pose hazards for your cats and dogs. The last thing you need this winter is a sick or injured pet, so it’s best to be prepared. The first thing you can do to keep your furry friend safe this season is to be informed about the dangers that come along with cold weather.
Below is a list of conditions you should be aware of to help protect your pet.
Cold weather hazards for cats and dogs
- If the temperatures dip too low, all outdoor water will freeze. Remember that your pet needs a constant supply of fresh, unfrozen water. Heated water bowls are available, or you can put their water bowls inside a dog igloo lined with straw to insulate. Heated pet mats inside dog igloos make great warming spots for pets that spend a lot of time outdoors.
- Houses cool down more quickly the colder it is outside. Small pets can become too cold even inside the house, so make sure to always keep your home humidified and heated, even when you’re only leaving for a few hours.
- Snow or ice can melt on your pet’s fur and soak them with cold water. Always towel dry your pet’s fur whenever they come inside and remove snow from between their toe pads.
- Never shave your dogs down to their skin in winter. Longer coats help insulate and protect them against ice crystals or harsh weather, and they’ll need all the help they can get.
- Do not bathe your pet too often. Bathing your pet can remove essential oils from their skin. Without those oils, the dry winter air could leave their skin chapped, dry, or bleeding.
- Pets use more calories to stay warm. In winter, we recommend that you feed your pet a higher quality food with lots of protein to ensure they get all the calories they need. If your pet has any medical issues, consult your vet before making any dietary changes.
- Outdoor cats often sleep under car hoods, which can result in them being injured or killed by the fan belt. When you are getting into your car, always knock loudly on the hood to make sure your cat (or one from the neighborhood) isn’t sleeping there.
- Even the most active outdoorsy pets can get hypothermia and frostbite. If there are any winter storm or extreme weather warnings, bring your pets inside (or at least inside a heated garage). Make sure they have a warm, soft area to curl up in.
- Antifreeze is extremely toxic to pets. Cats and dogs are often attracted to antifreeze because it smells and tastes sweet, but ingestion can cause total kidney failure within 12-24 hours. Symptoms, like vomiting, loss of coordination, and lethargy, can show up in as little as 1 hour. If you suspect your pet has ingested antifreeze or is displaying any of the above symptoms, call your vet immediately.
- Salt and chemical ice melts on the sidewalk can leave your pet’s paws chapped, dry, and painful. Additionally, if they lick their paws, they can become sick. Always purchase pet-safe ice melt products. You never know what your neighbors are using, however, so wash your pet’s feet with a warm cloth when they come back inside.
- Monitor your pets around open fireplaces and space heaters, which can cause burns or smoke inhalation if your pet gets too close or is enclosed with them for too long. This can be especially dangerous for dogs and younger pets.
A good rule of thumb is: if it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for your pet. Always make sure your pets have a warm, comfortable spot to sleep in overnight, and be alert to their paws, skin, and overall health.
If an accident does happen, our veterinarians and technical support staff are on premises all winter long to respond to emergency calls. When your dog or cat is hurting, you want pet care that you can rely on. Noah’s Ark Veterinary Hospital is just a call away.