For many, it can be the most beautiful time of year full of holiday festivity, snowy landscapes and warm fires. But, winter can also be a dangerous time of year…especially for our four-legged, furry friends. It’s crucial to be aware of winter-specific hazards so the necessary steps are taken to ensure our pets’ health and safety.
Heat Sources – Fires, candles, space heaters and wood-burning stoves create the dangerous potential for burns and smoke inhalation. The crackle, flickering light and warmth of a fire can be interesting stimulation to dogs, so make sure your dog is never left alone in a room with open flames or hot electric elements. And of course when a fire is lit, monitor your dog closely so he doesn’t get near it and endanger himself or those around him.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning – Remember to check all furnaces, gas water heaters and gas/kerosene space heaters regularly for any leakages. Since dogs tend to be indoors for longer periods of time during the winter, they are more at risk to exposure if there are leaks, which can cause serious health issues and even be fatal. Checking your smoke detector (or purchasing one if you don’t already have one) will help protect your pet and your family. Keep in mind carbon monoxide poisoning can also happen if dogs are left in cars too long with the motor running or kept in a garage near a running car.
Cold Weather – Just like human beings, dogs are susceptible to serious health conditions such as frostbite and hypothermia (low body temperature) if kept outside too long in frigid weather. Make sure you take the necessary precautions such as keeping your dog away from frozen water and thin ice to prevent drowning as well as making sure your dog has fresh, unfrozen water available to him and the ability to come inside if he needs to. If your dog has a dog house or igloo outside, make sure the interior is insulated. A good layer of straw or safely heated mats are options to keep your dog warm and comfortable. Older or ill dogs should be kept inside when possible to prevent their health conditions from worsening. If your dog is short-haired, consider dressing him in a sweater with high collar or turtleneck to cover him from the base of the tail to the belly. Also, avoid shaving your dog down in the colder months. A longer coat will provide him with more warmth.
Chemicals – Ice melts and salts as well as the chemicals ethylene glycol and methanol found in antifreeze and windshield wiper fluids are dangerously toxic and can cause serious, if not fatal health problems if your dog ingests them. Ice melts and salts can stick to the bottom of your dog’s paws, so make sure you wash their paws after all outdoor walks and remove any snow balls from between his foot pads where these chemicals could be present. If your dog is long-haired, trim him to minimize clinging ice balls, salt crystals or de-icing chemicals that can dry his skin.
1. Keep your home humidified and towel dry your dog as soon as he comes indoors. Repeatedly coming out of the cold and into dry heat can cause itchy, flaky skin.
2. Bathe your pets minimally during cold spells. Washing too often can also cause dryness and remove essential oils from their skin. When you do bathe your dog, use a moisturizing shampoo.
3. Pets burn extra energy during the wintertime in order to stay warm. By feeding your dog a bit more during the cold months, the extra calories will provide additional sustenance. Always providing plenty of water to keep your dog well-hydrated is also crucial.
4. At night, temperatures drop significantly. Make sure your pooch has a warm place to sleep, off a cold floor and away from any drafts. A cozy bed with warm blanket is a good option.