The cold winter is here; don’t forget your pets!

We all know that the Colorado winters can be brutal with the cold, snow, dry air, and wind chills!   Don’t forget to think about your furry friends when you are winterizing the house to prevent those frozen pipes and decrease your heating bills!  Here are a few hints and things to consider:

  • Limit your pets time outdoors as the windchill and the ice can cause severe problems like frost bite even in big dogs with a fair amount of hair.   Frost bite can occur not only on their feet but also face, tail, and other areas of the body.   Adequate shelter is a necessity if they are going to be outside for long periods at a time. Keep your dog warm, dry and away from drafts.
  • Tiles, wood floors, concrete and other areas without carpet areas can be cold, so make sure to place blankets and pads on floors in these areas.
  • Make sure your pets bed is not near a cold drafty window or door.   Especially if your pet has arthritis as this can make the joints a lot stiffer.
  • If you take your dog on walks, runs, or hikes, then be sure that you keep them away from ponds, lakes and other waterways were ice is present.  Many times there are weak spots in the ice that can collapse with the weight of you and/or your dog.   This water is obviously very cold and can become life threatening very quickly.
  • Increase your dogs food amount (or switch to a higher calorie diet) if it is going to spend a lot of time outdoors or is a working animal. It takes a lot more energy in these cold winters to keep that body temperature within a normal range, so the additional calories are necessary.
  • Towel or blow-dry your dog if it gets wet from rain or snow. It is important to dry and clean its paws, too. This helps avoid tiny cuts and cracked pads. A little petroleum jelly may soften the pads and prevent further cracking.  This can also be used for the nasal planum if it gets dry.
  • Our winters tend to not only be cold but also dry.  If your pet tends to get dry and flaky skin then consider a high quality oatmeal based shampoo and high quality fatty acids to help keep the skin hydrated and hair smooth.
  • Don’t leave your dog alone in a car. If the car engine is left on, the carbon monoxide could endanger your dog’s life. If the engine is off, the temperature in the car will get too cold.
  • Antifreeze is very toxic to all pets and humans.  It is often found on driveways and roadways. Although it smells and tastes good to your pets, it can be lethal.  It only takes a small amount of this dangerous product to kill a dog or cat (a little as 3 tablespoons is lethal to medium size dog, smaller amounts can still cause serious illness!).

  • Rock salt, used to melt ice on sidewalks, can be very irritating to the feet of your pet. Be sure to rinse and dry your dog’s feet after a walk.
  • Provide plenty of fresh water. Your dog is just as likely to get dehydrated in the winter as in the summer.   Snow is not a satisfactory substitute for water as it will also take a lot more calories to warm up that snow and keep the body warm as mentioned above.
  • Be very careful of supplemental heat sources. Heated blankets, warm water blankets, fireplaces and portable heaters can all severely burn your pet. Make sure all fireplaces have screens, and keep portable heaters out of reach.

  • Like people, dogs seem to be more susceptible to illness in the winter. Take your dog to a veterinarian if you see any suspicious symptoms and do not use over-the-counter medications on your dog without consulting a veterinarian first!!!

By: Shawn Seibel, DVM