It has been an extremely cold winter so far this year and it looks like we are in for some extreme winter weather soon. Make sure that you and your pets are prepared to stay safe from the elements with these tips:
Winter wellness: Has your pet had their annual exam yet? Cold weather may worsen some medical conditions such as arthritis. Your pet should be examined by a veterinarian at least once a year, and it’s as good a time as any to get them checked out to make sure they are ready and as healthy as possible for cold weather.
Stay inside. Cats and dogs should be kept inside during cold weather. It’s a common belief that dogs and cats are resistant than people to cold weather because of their fur, but it’s untrue. Like people, cats and dogs are susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia and should be kept inside. Longer-haired and thick-coated dog breeds, such as huskies and other dogs bred for colder climates, are more tolerant of cold weather; but no pet should be left outside for long periods of time in below-freezing weather.
Check the paws: Check your pet’s paws frequently for signs of cold-weather injury or damage, such as cracked paw pads or bleeding. During a walk, a sudden lameness may be due to an injury or may be due to ice accumulation between their toes. You may be able to reduce the chance of iceball accumulation by clipping the hair between your dog’s toes.
Provide shelter: We don’t recommend keeping any pet outside for long periods of time, but if you are unable to keep your dog inside during cold weather, provide him/her with a warm, solid shelter against wind. Make sure that they have unlimited access to fresh, non-frozen water (by changing the water frequently or using a pet-safe, heated water bowl). The floor of the shelter should be off of the ground (to minimize heat loss into the ground) and the bedding should be thick, dry and changed regularly to provide a warm, dry environment. The door to the shelter should be positioned away from prevailing winds. Space heaters and heat lamps should be avoided because of the risk of burns or fire. Heated pet mats should also be used with caution because they are still capable of causing burns.
Watch where you salt: While ice salt is only mildly poisonous to dogs, it can cause irritation to the skin, paws, and gastrointestinal tract when directly ingested. Make sure to use pet-friendly ice melters (which don’t contain salt). More importantly, since you don’t know what your neighbors have put down, make sure to use a damp cloth to wipe off your pet’s paws after coming into the house.
Recognize problems: If your pet is whining, shivering, seems anxious, slows down or stops moving, seems weak, or starts looking for warm places to burrow, get them back inside quickly because they are showing signs of hypothermia. Frostbite is harder to detect, and may not be fully recognized until a few days after the damage is done. If you suspect your pet has hypothermia or frostbite, consult your veterinarian immediately.
If you have any questions or concerns about your pet being exposed to cold winter weather please contact us to set up an appointment. We may experience some closures due to inclement weather, for more information please call us at 804-642-5740.
If you have question or concerns after hours, please contact the Animal Emergency Center at 757-234-0461.