Winterize your pet

The weather has changed on us dramatically, The winter jackets are coming out of the closet, it's time to take the car into the shop for some winter related adjustments. Just as your car may need a little special attention as the cold weather approaches, so does your pet.  Here are some tips on how to keep your pet safe and healthy during the cold season.

  • One of the most common winter associated cases we vets treat is antifreeze poisoning. The antifreeze we use in our vehicles is toxic to pets. Unfortunately it has a pleasant taste, so pets enjoy licking it. Antifreeze has a severe toxic effect on the kidneys which may be lethal. When you place antifreeze in your car, make sure your pet is not around. Make sure to clean any leaks on the ground thoroughly. Store the antifreeze container in a non-accessible place for pets. A pet that has ingested antifreeze will look like it has been drinking alcohol. Some of the symptoms you may observe are staggering, confusion and disorientation, excessive thirst and urination, vomiting and listlessness. If you suspect that your pet was exposed to antifreeze, take it to your vet ASAP.
  • Just like us, our pets have different nutritional requirements when it is colder out. Keeping normal body temperature requires energy burning. Pets that are kept outdoors should be fed about 25% more than their normal diet in the summer.
  • Prepare proper shelter to your pet. Make sure it has a well isolated and protected area to sleep in. Pad the ground with blankets. Deeply bedded straw is another good insulator. Make sure the area is not exposed to drafts and stays dry at all times.
  • Hypothermia occurs when a pet has been exposed to very cold temperatures and/or wind for an extended period of time. Symptoms include: low body temperature, shivering, clumsiness and stumbling, drowsiness and exhaustion. Animals in this condition should be placed immediately in a warm place. Cover your pet with warm blankets and contact your vet for further advice.
  • Many people do not associate dehydration with the winter season, but in fact dehydration is very common in dogs that are kept outdoors. When the temperature drops the pets drinking water may freeze and therefore put the pet at risk of dehydration. Using a heated drinking bowl can prevent this problem from happening. Special heated bowls are available in a variety of pets stores.  
  • Keep in mind that dogs that are kept mainly indoors may not get the opportunity to build up a proper winter coat. Using a pet’s sweater or jacket is very recommended, especially to owners of petite breeds of dogs such as Chihuahuas.
  • It is very important to maintain the dog’s physical activity also in the winter time, so don’t avoid walking your dog outside. Having said that, it is crucial to try to protect them from frost bite. Dogs’ ears, paws and tails are especially susceptible to frostbite. Initially, frostbitten tissue may appear pale or gray in color. The area will be cold to the touch, and hard. As the area thaws, it may become red. In severe frostbite, within several days the tissue will start to appear black and slough. In order to prevent that, when you return home from your walk, dry up your dog, clean your dogs paws and remove all the snow remnants. Dogs with fury paws are more prone to get frost bite from the snow that entraps between the toes.
  • Cats are known to climb into car engines to stay warm. Before you start your car, bang on the hood and honk the horn to scare away the cat.
  • The same as with humans, cold weather aggravates arthritis in pets. If your pet is having trouble getting up or laying down, navigating the stairs, or has started to snap or cry when picked up, it's probably time to consult your veterinarian on some remedies for arthritis relief.

Cold-weather pet care is a matter of compassion and common sense. Use both in equal measure and your pet will get through the winter safe and happy.

More Dr. Oz's Vet Advice articles

About the Author

Dr. Moshe Oz owns Rose Valley Veterinary Hospital, a small animal veterinary practice in West Kelowna.

Dr. Oz has deep love and affection for animals. It was his childhood dream to become a veterinarian, a dream that he has fulfilled when he graduated with honours from KUVM,on 2006. Dr. Oz's special interest is internal medicine and surgery.

In his free time Dr. Oz enjoys training and racing triathlons, including the legendary Penticton's Ironman.

Dr. Oz can be contacted through his website: www.KelownaVet.ca

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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