When winter weather strikes, pet owners need to be cautious in order to protect the health and safety of their pets. Winter weather can pose a number of unique seasonal situations that pet owners need to be cautious of, according to Dr. Robert Reich of Animal Medical Clinics of Quincy.

  • Check your pet’s paws immediately upon coming back inside and do this each time your pet goes outside in icy or snowy conditions.
  • If your pet has a tendency to like to warm up near heat registers/heat vents, watch closely so that your pet doesn’t sit directly on top of them and end up getting burned when the heat is cranked up on high in your home.
  • Use extreme caution with ice/snow chunks that may get caught on your pet’s feet and fur. To help with this, Dr. Reich recommends keeping the hair trimmed out of their paws and keep the fur as short as possible of their feet. For chunks that may accumulate in the fur, Dr. Reich recommends using a warm cloth and a pet comb to loosen and remove. For pets with longer fur, consider buying a pet comb with metal teeth that each individually rotate 360 degrees to help keep the comb from catching in the pet’s fur.
  • Periodically check the area where your pet has urinated (if your pet has a fenced in area) to look for signs of infection (discolored urine or blood). ‘We see an increase in the number of patients with urinary issues in the winter months due to pet owners being able to see urine in the snow,” says Dr. Reich.

In addition, Dr. Reich reminds pet owners of the following:

  • Ice Melt products used on streets and/or sidewalks can cause problems with your pet’s feet and can also get matted into hair in feet. In addition, dogs may lick at ice melt remnants on paws which in turn can cause stomach upset. Dr. Reich recommends using baby wipes to clean feet after a walk and keep hair trimmed up.  If possible, try to use pet-safe products in areas where you know your pet will be walking.
  • Anti-freeze is toxic and can kill pets, so use extreme caution in the garage and when on walks, and watch for cars that leak anti-freeze. Warning signs of possible anti-freeze ingestion include vomiting, but there are not always warning signs a pet has had contact with it. Dr. Reich reminds pet owners that if ingestion is suspected, it’s critical to have your pet examined and treated by a vet very quickly.
  • Use caution when walking dogs in icy areas. Dogs can slip and pull ligaments in the legs or strain muscles.  “Use caution with energetic dogs that like to run in yard if there is ice on the ground,” says Dr. Reich.
  • For dogs who stay outdoors, keep in mind that outdoor bedding/straw gets wet and frozen quickly so change it often and put something over the door of an outside dog house to help protect your dog from cold and wind while keeping the inside of the doghouse dry.
  • In the event of a deep snow, make sure your pet has a clear shoveled place to go to bathroom. Make sure to provide an area where your pet is able to move around outside in spite of deep snow.
  • Cold weather in general can irritate arthritis in older pets, who may need evaluation and medication to help in the cold weather, especially those who receive less regular exercise.
  • While fashionable and cute, Dr. Reich recommends using caution with sweaters/coats on your pet.  “If your pet wears a sweater or coat, be sure to take it off when coming back inside to avoid overheating in the house,” cautions Dr. Reich. “Also be sure that it doesn’t restrict your pet’s ability to use the bathroom or its legs when it is walking,” he adds.