Winter Pet Tips From Yolo Veterinary Clinic

Girl with a Puppy — Veterinary in Woodland, CA

Cold Kills

A dog or cat left outside in severe cold weather can die quickly from exposure. Except for exercise and walks, all dogs and cats are safer indoors during the winter. Bring your pets inside when temperatures start to dip near freezing. Make sure they have a warm, draft-free place indoors with a dry mat or blanket that they can lie on. Give them plenty of fresh water and appropriate amounts of food.

Outdoor Dogs Need Special Protection

Large-breed dogs that live outdoors need the protection of a dry, draft-free doghouse. It should be large enough for the dog to sit and lie down comfortably, but cozy enough to help him retain body heat. The floor should be raised a few inches off the ground and covered with cedar shavings or straw. The house should be turned away from the winds and the opening covered with waterproof burlap or heavy plastic. Even outdoor dogs must be brought inside in severe temperatures.

Cold Cars Are Dangerous

If you leave your dog or cat in an unattended car out in the winter cold, be prepared to treat them for hypothermia. Small, short-coated breeds can particularly susceptible. If you have to leave a pet alone in a car, then you're better off leaving them back at home. Pets in unattended cars can also be lost or stolen.

Avoid Antifreeze Poisoning

Antifreeze tastes sweet to unsuspecting pets but it's a deadly poison. This is an especially insidious danger because once swallowed, antifreeze poisoning is difficult to diagnose and treat. Don't let your pet drink from puddles in the street.

Does Fido Need a Sweater?

If your dog shakes and shivers during walks on a cold day, he may need a sweater. Regardless of size, many short-coated dogs are very sensitive to cold. This is especially true in older dogs. A properly fitted canine sweater can help your dog retain precious body warmth and enjoy their time outdoors.

Rock Salt/Deicers Can Burn

A thick layer of petroleum jelly on your dog's or cat's footpads can prevent the burning and irritation they can experience when they walk outside on sidewalks that have been treated with salt or chemical deicers. Whenever your pet gets back from a long walk, make sure you wipe its paws clean of any residue before it licks them and irritates its mouth. Keep your pets' nails trimmed, and shave the hair between the toes. It's a good way to prevent foot problems and make treatment easier if they do occur.

Avoid Icy Dangers

Good grooming is essential if you plan to let your pet frolic in the snow and ice. Long-haired breeds that roll in the snow can get ice stuck to their fur. The ice- and snowpack in the fur can cause severe chills and lead to dangerous respiratory infections. When you get back home, the ice and snow will melt all over your rugs and furniture, creating a damp and unhealthy home atmosphere. The long hair between pets' toes can cause snow to get impacted painfully in their paws.

Don't Let Them Eat Snow

Outdoor exercise and play can make any pet thirsty, but don't let them lick or eat snow or ice. Ingesting snow can cause a terrible stomachache, and the salt, deicers and other contaminants can cause diarrhea and other more serious ailments. When out in the snow, keep your dog on a leash. Bring along a ball or other toy that you can use to distract your pet.

Check Under the Hood

Before you start the engine on your car or truck on that frigid winter morning, bang on the hood or blow the horn. Cats and other small animals, including birds, often seek the warmth of car and truck engines overnight. They will crawl under the hood for protection from the winds and cold. Many are maimed or killed each winter when they get caught up in the fan and fan belts.

Watch That Diet

Outdoor dogs and those dogs that spend a lot of time outdoors need more food during the winter because keeping warm depletes energy. However, if your dog is a homebody and doesn't spend much time exercising during the cold weather months, they might start to gain unneeded weight. Be careful not to over-feed your pet. Quick weight gain is unhealthy. Obesity in pets leads to serious medical problems and a shortened lifespan.

Prevent Cabin Fever

Now that the summer and vacations are over, your pets will be spending more time home alone. Bored, unstimulated dogs and cats are most likely to cause problems and develop separation anxiety while you're away at school or work. Prevent problems by putting out your pet's favorite toys when you leave for the day and put them away when you get home. Leave a radio on to a talk or news station while you're out. Most of all spend some quality time with your pet when you do get home.

Don't Swallow Indoor Poisons

Don't let your pet become a tragic statistic. Cleaning fluids, detergents, household solvents, even nail polish can smell and taste sweet to your pet. Once swallowed, they can be deadly. Secure all of these products in a place your pets can't get at. If you suspect your pet may have ingested a toxic product contact your vet immediately. Have his daytime and after hours phone readily available.

Visit the Vet

With the warm weather approaching, this is a good time to schedule your pet's annual visit to the veterinarian. By taking some simple preventive steps now, you can avoid dangerous situations and help protect your pet from falling victim to them.