A cat sitting in front of a fireplace

Winter is here, and what better way to combat the cooler temperatures and chilly rain than with cozy sweaters, crackling fires, and couch cuddles with your furry pal. Since our four-legged companions aren’t able to bundle themselves up for the cold, they rely on their pet parents to provide protection from frigid winter temperatures. Our pets may have year-round fur coats, but they are still at risk of illness and injury from cold weather exposure. Ensure your pets are safe this winter with these six tips from our Bayside Animal Hospital team. 

#1: Take your pet for a winter wellness check

The winter months are a great time to take your pet for a veterinary wellness examination, especially if they are approaching their grey muzzle years. Senior pets and pets with ongoing health issues, including diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, or hormonal imbalances, may  have a more difficult time managing their body temperature. Cold temperatures may also exacerbate clinical signs in arthritic pets, and stiff, painful joints can make standing or walking more difficult. Your Bayside veterinarian may recommend medications to reduce your pet’s pain, as well as blood work to make an early diagnosis of any illness that chilly temperatures may affect adversely. 

#2: Dress your pet for the occasion

Some pets with thick fur coats, such as Siberian huskies and Alaskan malamutes, may tolerate cold weather more easily, but all animals are susceptible to the effects of cold temperatures, so limit your pet’s time outside in the cold. Generally, if it’s too cold outside for you, it’s too cold for your pet. Smaller pets, pets with short fur, and hairless breeds are especially sensitive to cold temperatures. Consider dressing  your pet in a properly fitting sweater or jacket to keep them warm outdoors. Additionally, protect your pet’s paws with boots or salves such as Musher’s Secret, to ensure they are comfortable walking on cold or wet surfaces. 

#3: Monitor your pet for signs of hypothermia

Changes in your pet’s body temperature can cause hypothermia, which is a serious medical condition that occurs when their body temperature drops below 100 degrees. A healthy pet’s body temperature is normally higher than a human’s, and ranges from 100 degrees to 102.5 degrees. Hypothermia signs in pets include:

  • Shivering
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Shallow or difficulty breathing
  • Pale skin
  • Low heart rate
  • Lethargy
  • Dilated pupils
  • Decreased appetite
  • Pale or bluish skin

If your pet has clinical signs of hypothermia, bring them inside immediately, cover them with warm blankets or towels, and call your veterinarian. 

#4: Keep your pet dry

Exposure to dry, cold air can lead to chapped paws as well as itchy and flaky skin in your pet. During the winter months, minimize bathing your pet, to preserve their natural oils that support a healthy coat and skin. Humidifying your home will also help to decrease your pet’s flaky winter skin. Additionally, ensure you dry your pet after walks or exposure to wet weather, paying special attention to their paws and the skin between their toes. 

#5: Beware of antifreeze toxicity in pets

Antifreeze is occasionally used during the colder months to winterize our cars and homes. The active ingredient in antifreeze, ethylene glycol, is a sweet-tasting, odorless liquid that pets find difficult to resist, and is a common cause of winter veterinary emergencies. Small amounts of ethylene glycol are dangerous to pets, and only one teaspoon can be lethal to cats and one to two tablespoons toxic to dogs. If you observe your pet ingesting antifreeze or suspect they may have licked some off the ground, contact your veterinarian immediately. Initially, antifreeze toxicity signs are similar to a human who has consumed too much alcohol. However, signs worsen as the toxin is absorbed and metabolized through the kidneys and liver, and may include:

  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • Wobbly or uncoordinated movement
  • Increased heart rate
  • Weakness
  • Tremors
  • Fainting 
  • Low body temperature
  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Excess salivation
  • Mouth ulcers or sores
  • Dehydration
  • Seizures
  • Anorexia
  • Coma

#6: Use caution with space heaters and fires around pets

Since pets will be spending more time inside during the cooler months, ensure that your home is pet-proofed. Use caution with space heaters, and ensure they are in a secure, inaccessible location to prevent injury to your pet, or a house fire. If your home has a lit fireplace, always supervise your pet to avoid singed fur or burned paws. 

Our Bayside Animal Hospital team wishes you and your pet a cozy, warm winter. However, should your pet get into any cold weather trouble, or if you have questions about keeping your pet safe in the cold, call our office. We are here to help.