Is Your Pet Winterized? Top Cold Weather Tips for Dogs and Cats

Pet Friendly Hotels & TravelWinterize my house - check, winterize my car - check, winterize my pet - what?  With the full wrath of winter upon us - arctic winds, plummeting temps, snow and freezing rain (ugh), have you taken the time to be sure that your pet is winterized?  That is, prepared for the frigid temps and all that goes along with it?   Take note of these special precautions and tips to ensure your pet is safe and protected this winter.

Un-Pet Friendly Winter Products

Anti-Freeze:  Be sure that you keep your pet far away from automotive anti-freeze. This highly toxic yellowish green fluid poses a life-threatening danger to pets.  It contains ethylene glycol which is a potent toxin to the kidneys.  Just as little as a lick of this dangerous fluid can be dangerous to your pet.  Take your pet to the vet immediately if you suspect that your dog or cat has ingested anti-freeze.  Early treatment is essential. 

Windshield Washer Products:  Less toxic, but also a danger, are windshield washer products. They contain methanol which can cause severe nervous system depression in pets.  If pets ingest these fluids they may exhibit drooling, vomiting, and instability.

Ice Melt Products:   Treating sidewalks, driveways, and steps with rock salt and other ice melt products is another routine of winter months.  If pets ingest these products, they can suffer from gastrointestinal tract irritation, as well as depression, weakness, seizures, cardiac issues, and other life threatening issues. Without ingestion, rock salt and other ice melt products can dry out and irritate your pet's paws and stomach.  Dry paws can lead to cracks and possible infection (not to mention discomfort).  There are pet safe ice melts on the market; however, you can't control what others are putting on their sidewalks.  To help prevent irritation and injury to your pet, gently wash and dry off their paws AND bellies at the end of their walk.  If you are traveling with your pet, be sure to wash off your pet's paws and belly once you get them in the car.  As a preventative measure, you may want to consider boots for your pet; however; I have yet to find some that stay on!  Applying pet paw wax to your dog's pads is another preventative measure. 

Space Heaters:  In seeking out warm places, pets may cozy up to space heaters or heat lamps which can also pose dangers to your pets.  Keep fluffy tails away from heat lamps and space heaters, as they can easily ignite into flames.  In addition, dogs and cats love to seek out the warmth of a fire.  Be sure that your fireplace is protected by either a safety screen or glass to help prevent sparks from flying out and landing on your dog or cat. 

Outdoor Threats

The Elements:  Your pet needs to be protected from the cold itself. Just because your pet has fur doesn't mean they are completely protected from the cold.  If you have a short haired breed, you may want to consider protective clothing for them.  In addition, when the temps really dip (particularly when the wind chill is a factor), limit their time outdoors.   In addition, if you are traveling by car with your pet, do not leave them in a freezing cold car.  After you turn the heater off, the temperature rapidly drops.  You know your pet best, so be sure to keep a close eye on them and bring them in if they are exhibiting signs of being too cold.  Monitor your pet closely to avoid any type of severe reaction to overexposure to cold such as hypothermia.  Signs of hypothermia include:  lethargy, weakness, shivering, muscle stiffness, difficulty breathing, and fixed and dilated pupils.

Bodies of Water:  Most dogs love to romp in the snow off-leash.  It's important to know the area in which you are playing with your dog.  Be sure to keep your pet away from bodies of water - even if they appear frozen.  Incidents of dogs falling through the ice happen way too often and are easily preventable. 

Car Engines:  Outdoor cats find warm engines the perfect place to find warmth during the cold winter months.  Turning your car on with a cat curled up on your engine is obviously a big danger.  To alert any cat that may be near your car engine, bang on your hood a few times before getting in and starting your car. 

Escaping the Cold

Pet Travel...South:  Some choose to skip the winterizing stuff and travel to a warmer climate with their dog or cat.  If you plan to travel with your pet to escape the cold, be sure to plan ahead.  If traveling by plane, check with your carrier to determine their airline pet policies. If traveling by car with your pet, be sure to plan ahead and take all the necessary steps to ensure your pet has a safe and happy road trip, including securing pet friendly hotels & accommodations along your travel route!