Turnip's Cat Tree
All the insight of the veterinary world, through the eyes of a hospital cat.
Keeping Your Pet Healthy During Winter Months
With the New Year, we tend to refocus our energy on ways to improve our lives and that definitely includes the lives of our furry family members. Winter is always a tricky time of year, especially in the Midwest, when the cold weather limits outdoor activities and can present unique hazards for our pets. In the recent weeks with the exceptionally cold weather, I have had multiple conversations with various clients about different challenges they are experiencing at home and thought this would be a great time to discuss ways to help keep your pet healthy and safe during these cold winter months.
Helping Pets with Cold Temperatures
As many dog owners have experienced lately, the freezing cold temperatures have made walks/bathroom breaks outdoors short and sweet. It’s very important to be mindful of the time spent outside in these hazardous conditions. Frost Bite and hypothermia can set in faster than expected in any size of animal. Hypothermia occurs when your pet`s body temperature falls below normal range from being exposed to cold temperatures for too long and is unable to regulate it appropriately. Clinical signs of mild cases are shivering, depression, weakness and lethargy with severe signs being stiff muscles, low heart rate/respiratory rate and no longer responding to stimuli. Frost bite can occur in severe cases and occurs when ice crystals start to form in tissues such as their toes, paws, ears and tail and can lead to a change in color at the skin surface and possible loss of those extremities. If you suspect either condition in your pet, please seek veterinary medical attention immediately.
It may be difficult to tell if your pet is cold but I recommend following one simple rule: if the ear is cold, they are usually cold. Using sweaters or coats are a great way to keep your pup warm and they don’t all have to be from doggy boutiques (although we always love seeing our stylish patients.) Using a small child’s sweatshirt or sweater works well for a large breed dog and now lots of discount retail shops and online stores care variety of options for pet clothing. Also if your pet sleeps on the floor, having a thicker bed (about 3 inches off the ground) with higher sides to block any drafts can help keep the chill off. Be cautious about using heating pads in beds because direct contact with the pad can lead to burns and other injuries. If using a heating pad, use multiple layers of blankets between the heating pad and your pet while keeping on a lower setting. Also please ensure no wires are exposed for any pet to possibly chew and ingest or cause electrocution.
Along with sweaters and coats, another great option to keep dog warmer on walks and avoid irritating paws is boots/covers for their feet. Not only will they help keep them warm, they will help protect against irritating salt/chemicals used on the sidewalks during winter months. These chemicals can be harmful to paw pads and can get stuck in the fur between toes causing pain and discomfort. If your dog refuses to don their fashionable boots, giving the paws a good wipe down with a clean, warm towel every time they come indoors will help remove irritating debris and reduce the risk of hypothermia. Also boots are a great way to give traction to older, arthritic dogs that might have a harder time on the snow and ice.
A few tricks that can help your pet stay healthy indoors is keeping up with their hydration. Just like people, our pets are more susceptible to dehydration due to the low humidity. Encourage your pets to drink more water by adding ice cubes in water dish or having access to running water/fountains. You can also help stimulate their natural oil gland in their fur with daily brushing at home and supplementing omega 3 fatty acids. This can help keep their coats from becoming dull during the winter and reduce dry skin which can lead to itching and discomfort.
Winter Specific Hazards
Do NOT leave pets in car! This can be just as dangerous as a hot car in the summer time. Cars can cool off rapidly once the heat is off and this leaves pets at risk to develop hypothermia and frost bite and in severe cases even death.
Please avoid any frozen bodies of water (lakes/ponds) unless you are 100% sure they are frozen. Too many times pets have fallen through thin ice and very difficult and dangerous to rescue. Even if you are positive they are completely frozen, running on ice is great way for your pet to injury itself, especially tearing a cruciate ligament which I know many of our clients are familiar with and it can be an expensive injury to treat.
Finally, a potentially fatal toxin that always has an increase in exposure and incidence in the winter is antifreeze toxicity. Antifreeze can pool under cars in garages, drive ways and streets where unsuspecting animals are draw to its sweet taste. The ethylene glycol crystals in the antifreeze can lead to acute kidney failure quickly if medical attention is not sought immediately and even then, sometimes it’s too late. Do not allow your pet to roam unsupervised outdoors or allow to drink from any puddles or water sources that you are not familiar as well as cleaning up any antifreeze spills in your garage or drive way right away. Antifreeze toxicity signs are lethargy, anorexia, GI upset (vomiting or diarrhea) oral lesions, drooling, increased breathing or neurological signs. Please seek veterinary care immediately if you suspect your pet has ingested antifreeze.
I hope you found some of this information helpful and our next post will talk about ways to keep your pet active indoors during these cold months. Always feel free to contact our hospital with any questions or concerns you may have about your furry family members!
Mary Roberg, DVM
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Saturday 8:00 am - 2:30 pm
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The hospital is closed on New Years Day, Easter, Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.
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HANOVER PARK ANIMAL CARE CENTER
1920 Ontarioville Road
Hanover Park, IL 60133
Phone (630) 830-6620
Fax (630) 830-6697
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