CHICAGO – Your pets may be covered with fur, but their best defense against bitter cold is what you provide: common sense.
Dogs and cats can suffer from frostbite and hypothermia just like humans, so the doctors at BluePearl Veterinary Partners developed a list of ways to keep your pets safe in the worst of winter. Chief among them is to remember that in spite of their natural coats, animals do suffer physically from the cold.
“If it feels cold to you, it’s probably cold to your indoor cat or dog,” said Dr. Will Fischbach, a senior clinician in emergency medicine for BluePearl.
With hospitals open around the clock, BluePearl sees plenty of animals each winter who suffer injuries because of the cold, and veterinarians always are on hand to treat them. BluePearl hospitals are staffed with veterinarians trained in emergency medicine and specialties such as surgery and critical care, so they are well-equipped to help.
Here are some of the veterinarians’ tips for keeping your pets safe throughout the winter cold:
- The most common-sense tip is, don’t leave your pets in the cold for too long. Fur coats won’t protect them from prolonged exposure. Monitor your pets and bring them inside if they start to shiver or if you see redness in their tails or ears (which could be frostbite.) Once inside, get the ice out from between their toes.
- If you spread a de-icer on your driveway or sidewalks, find one that’s pet-friendly. Various toxins and even salt can cause problems for pets, who tend to lick the substances off their paws.
- Don’t leave your pet alone in a car while you go into the store. It’s a bad idea in the heat and it’s a bad idea in the cold.
- Pets sometimes spend more time in garages and basements in winter, so make sure to clear these spaces free of antifreeze and rat poison, both highly toxic. And remember, cats love to crawl into anything warm, including a nice cozy car engine. If Fluffy spends the night in the garage, make sure to locate her before starting the car.
- Winter can make it hard for pets to find their way back home because ice and snow mask familiar scents and paths. Keep pets on leashes so they don’t get confused and lost. Be sure your dogs and cats are wearing identification tags. And don’t forget to have pets microchipped.
- Your dog will never tell you, “Oh, my arthritis acts up in the cold.” And yet, it does. If your pet struggles when getting up and moving around the house, make a trip to the veterinarian. Also, make sure your pets have soft, warm bedding.
Another idea is to get your dog a sweater or coat, especially if they are short-haired. “This type of dog clothing is actually functional,” Fischbach said.