Your pet needs winterizing, too
Ryan Summerlin December 23, 2013
You’ve winterized your car, your house, and your lawn. But what about your pet? Here are some winter threats that lurk, as well as tips on how to keep your pet safe.
TOXIC WINTER PRODUCTS
Anti-freeze: Never, ever leave automotive antifreeze where your pet can access it. Clean up any spills quickly and thoroughly. This highly toxic fluid contains ethylene glycol, that can quickly damage your pet’s kidneys. A single lick of this fluid can pose serious danger to the health of your pet, and, unfortunately, it has a smell and flavor that pets find appealing. If you suspect your dog or cat has come into contact with or ingested anti-freeze, take them immediately to the vet — this is a life-threatening emergency.
Windshield cleaner: This cleaner is less toxic than antifreeze, but it’s still a serious threat. Most varieties contain methanol, which can cause severe nervous system depression in pets, which may result in drooling, vomiting, and instability.
Ice melt products: For most people who live in cold climates, treating walkways, driveways, and outdoor steps with rock salt or other ice melt products is de rigueur during winter months. Unfortunately, these products can cause everything from gastrointestinal tract irritation to depression, weakness, seizures and cardiac problems. Walking on treated areas can dry out and irritate your pet’s paws. Dry paws can lead to cracking and discomfort, and creates the possibility of infection. To keep your pet safe and comfortable, gently wash and dry off his paws and his belly at the end of each walk, and when you enter the car during travel. Boots can prevent some irritation, but ones that truly stay on are a find. Pet safe ice melt products are available.
Heating elements: Pets naturally seek out warm, cozy places during winter, and they’re often drawn to space heaters, heat lamps and fireplaces. These heat sources can pose dangers to your pets, so it’s important to monitor them. Stray hairs can ignite quickly, so keep all fluffy tails from exposure to heat lamps and space heaters. Protect your pet from the open flames and sparks of a fireplace by using a safety screen or glass.
The elements: Your pet isn’t totally protected from winter’s chill just because he has fur. Short-haired breeds that live in cold climates may need protective clothing when spending time outdoors. Hypothermia is a life-threatening condition. Signs of hypothermia include lethargy, weakness, muscle stiffness, difficulty breathing, and fixed and dilated pupils. Time outdoors during particularly harsh cold snaps should be limited for all breeds.
Never leave your pet unattended in a cold car. Once you shut off your car’s heater, the temperature drops rapidly.
Bodies of water: Romping through the snow off-leash is a favorite winter pastime for many dogs. However, before you remove the leash, know the area to ensure he doesn’t inadvertently fall into an unseen body of water.
Even seemingly frozen bodies of water can pose threats. Every year there are incidents in which dogs fall through thin ice and injure themselves, or worse.
Car engines: Cats who roam outdoors often seek shelter by curling up in the warmth of a recently turned off car engine. Turning your car on while a cat is snuggled up on your engine is obviously something you never want to have happen. Bang on your hood a few times before getting in and starting your car.
If you plan to escape winter’s chill by traveling south with your pet, plan ahead.
TripsWithPets.com, founded by President Kim Salerno, is an online resource offering resources to ensure pets are welcome, happy, and safe while traveling.
The website features a directory of pet friendly hotels and accommodations, airline and car rental pet policies; pet-friendly restaurants, beaches, and events; and more.