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January is fully upon us and with the colder temps comes the need for added awareness to keep our pets safe. Help your special furry friends weather the winter by considering these five simple tips.

  1. Hike Responsibly. Cold weather hikes can be good for both humans and dogs, but extra precautions are necessary, especially when dogs become wet in the snow. Consider using booties on your pet’s paws to prevent ice balls and slippage and don’t forget hydration. Watch for signs of hypothermia, including slowing down, tiring and shivering. Keep blankets and other warm items in the car and warm your pet just as you would a human.
  2. Be Mindful of Antifreeze (ethylene glycol). This common additive has a sweet taste that many animals find irresistible. They may seek it out to drink it. Unfortunately, it only takes a small amount to cause permanent and fatal damage to the kidneys. Never drain antifreeze into the street, be careful to wipe up any spills, and store antifreeze in tightly closed containers far out of the reach of pets (and children). There is no antifreeze product available that is truly safe.
  3. Watch the Ice Melt. Salt and other chemicals that are used to melt snow and ice have varying degrees of toxicity. Their effects depend upon the ingredients and the amount ingested. These chemicals can burn the pads of a pet’s feet or lead to elevated sodium levels or burns of the mouth if ingested from licking their paws. Wipe your pet’s feet off with a damp towel after any exposure.
  4. Keep Tabs on the Thermometer. No matter what the temperature outside, windchill can be devastating. That same windchill combined with dampness, rain, sleet, or heavy, wet snow can be fatal. It is best not to leave any dog outdoors unsupervised when the temperature drops. Cold, wet, windy snowstorms can often come up both quickly and unexpectedly. Short haired, very young, and senior dogs are at greatest risk for problems related to cold exposure. A dog is happiest and healthiest in winter when kept indoors, going outside to relieve himself, go for a walk, or play a game of fetch with his owner.
  5. Pay Attention to Paws. Pet paws, like human hands and faces, are susceptible to frostbite. Remove caked ice from your dog’s feet as soon as possible. Frostbitten skin may turn color, becoming reddish, gray, or white. It may become scaly and begin peeling. If you suspect frostbite, thaw out the affected areas slowly using warm, moist towels that are changed frequently. Have your pet evaluated by your veterinarian as soon as possible to determine the extent of the damage.

Common sense can guide most of the decisions you make as you keep pets out of harm’s way during the winter months. Consider the consequences as our furry family members face the cold winter months.