Published on December 24th, 2015 | by Debbie Martin0
Winter Pet Guide – Keeping your Pets Safe
We’ve arrived at that time of year again – temperatures across the country are plummeting, and we’re all feeling the chill. Many of us will undoubtedly spend the period shovelling snow from our driveways, spreading salt across our pavements and stocking up on woollen jumpers, hats, gloves and other such festive finery.
But the season also poses challenges for the non-human residents of our households. Both dogs and cats are vulnerable to seasonal hazards. In this our Winter Pet Guide, we’ll take a look through them, and see how they might be addressed.
Perhaps the most obvious feature of the season is that temperatures will drop markedly. Fortunately, both dogs and cats have a built-in defence against the winter chill – their fur coats. Fur coats come a number of different forms, with some being hugely suitable for cold weather, and others being less so. A Samoyed dog, for example, will be able to tolerate sub-zero temperatures quite comfortably. A sphynx cat, on the other hand, will not.
The quality of an animal’s fur coat will hugely affect its ability to retain (and repel) heat. If your pet’s coat feels dry and matted, then it’s likely missing that extra shine of oil that will help to protect it during winter. Similarly, animals which become wet will be less able to rid themselves of cold, and are at greater risk of hypothermia.
You can help your pet to maintain its coat by investing in high-quality foods, which contain the nutrients required to build and maintain a healthy skin and coat. Such nutrients mostly come in the form of essential fatty acids, which cannot be synthesised by an animal’s body, and must be consumed through diet. If you’re especially worried about the state of your pet’s coat, then talk to your vet about the benefits of supplementation.
It’s important that dogs are exercised, even during adverse weather. For this reason, owners should certainly consider investing in a good quality dog coat, and possibly boots – particularly if their dog is of the short-haired variety.
Remember when walking at night there are many things that you can do over and above that already mentioned to ensure yours and your dog’s safety. You could invest in an LED Collar or Lead thus making you and the dog more visible, in fact these days you can even buy LED safety lights. Reflective or Hi Vis jackets are also available for both you and your pet so please do take whatever precautions suit your pocket to prevent accidents to both you and your dog when walking at night.
Cats will exercise themselves of their own accord – but short-haired ones might not be willing to venture outdoors. That being the case, you should provide them an alternative, indoor means of exerting themselves – this might mean a large, elaborate play structure, or it might mean an indoor toy containing catnip.
You might also consider grooming your dog or cat in order to preserve the quality of its coat at this time. Unfortunately, many such animals will be less than amenable to this idea, and so you’ll need to spend some time convincing them. This may require patience, but the results may be more than worth it. Just be sure that you aren’t overzealous with hot appliances like hairdryers – if they contact the animal, they might cause a painful burn, but even at a distance they can damage the layer of oils which helps to keep the skin moist, and therefore protected against chills.
If a full grooming session is out of the question, then you should at least be sure to wipe your dog’s paws and underbelly after a walk. If you don’t want to groom your pet yourself, then you might consider getting it done professionally – but be sure to go for a reputable groomer, even if the cost might be a little steeper.
Keep your Pet Hydrated
It is just as important in Winter as it is in Summer to keep your pets well hydrated so make sure that you check your pets water supply regularly. If your pet’s water is normally kept outside then consider moving it to a location indoors so that it will stop the water freezing.
If you have to leave the pets water outside then consider placing a tennis ball or some other object in the water to stop it from freezing up. Avoid using outdoor metal bowls, as pet’s tongues can become stuck to the bowl which can cause injury when the animal tries to pull away.
Remember that smaller pets such as rabbits and guinea pigs that have the smaller water bottles will be more likely to freeze so check and change regularly or consider one of the many neoprene bottle covers on the market that will help with this.
One particularly egregious threat to animals at this time of year is anti-freeze. Antifreeze is extremely poisonous to both dogs and cats, and will cause them to suffer massive kidney failure and death in a matter of mere hours. What makes antifreeze so dangerous is that it actually has a very sweet taste. This is because of the ingredient which makes it remain liquid even at sub-zero temperatures: ethelyne glycol.
The substance is deadly even in very small quantities – and, thanks to its sweetness, many animals will drink substantial amounts, if given the opportunity. Symptoms of antifreeze poisoning include vomiting, depression, apparent drunkenness (since ethelyne glycol is an alcohol derivative), and violent seizures. If you notice that your pet is acting in such a manner, then don’t delay – get it the vet as soon as possible. While the outlook for most affected animals is bleak, the first few moments after ingestion can make the difference between life and death.
During winter, many cars suffer damage as a result of environmental stressors. This can lead to antifreeze leaking from the bottom of cars and forming green-grey puddles on the tarmac. If you notice such a spillage beneath your car, then be sure to have it cleaned up immediately. Similarly, one should always ensure that antifreeze is properly labelled and kept out of reach of small children and animals.
If you’re shopping for antifreeze for your car, then be sure that you opt for the substantially less dangerous propylene glycol – which is even used as an additive in some dog foods. Other toxic hazards are seasonally-blooming flowers, and the rock salt used to grit roads – though neither of these pose the same risk as antifreeze, as they aren’t so sweet and palatable.