2. Cold Weather And Your Pets

We may not be ready, but it is that time of year.

“Let it snow!  Let it snow!  Let it snow!

These words bring to mind images of skiers, little kids throwing snowballs, and dogs bounding across open fields of freshly fallen snow.  For many parts of the country, these are the beautiful sights of a winter wonderland.  However, in all this beauty there are hidden dangers for the unprepared and uninformed pet owner.

Please consider these items before you take your pet out in the cold:

  1. LACK OF EXERCISE.Weather is the number two reason that pets don’t get taken for their daily walks. Exercise – every day – is an important part in the physical and social health of your pet.  If inclement weather prevents you and your four-legged, furry family member from going outside for your exercise, perhaps you could play some games inside to get both of your heart rates up.  Your pet’s physical fitness assists in better handling stress, illness, and changes in temperature.
  1. HYPOTHERMIA.Hypothermia is defined as an abnormally low body temperature. Pets that are old, young, or injured have a predisposition to hypothermia because they can’t produce the heat they need to stay warm in cold situations. Hypothermic pets need to be actively rewarmed and treated by a veterinarian.  Signs of hypothermia initially include shivering, weakness, and lethargy.  Hypothermia can progress to include reduced breathing and heart rates with a low level of consciousness.  Sever hypothermia would include muscle rigidity and possible unconsciousness. If not treated will cause death.
  1. MOTOR VEHICLES. During the winter, cars can get cold inside quickly, posing potential danger to pets.If you are going to leave your pet in the car for a short period of time, be sure to provide a blanket from home. Do notleave the car running and unattended with a pet inside.  Pets have been known to put vehicles in gear!  But few have ever figured out the brake idea.  All pets should be crated or restrained in a harness while riding in a vehicle.
  1. IDENTIFICATION. Pets lost during bad weather are at greater risk of not being found and returned to their owners.  Cold weather reduces the window of time to safely find lost pets. Reflective or illuminated collars can help others see your pet during bad weather.  Having a picture of your pet with a description ready for just such a situation can help you more quickly locate your pet.
  1. FUR COATS.You can help keep your pet warm, comfortable, and safe while they enjoy the outdoors with you.  A wide variety of options exist to protect your pet from the elements, including hats, booties, sweaters, and ponchos.  If your pet is an inside pet, or doesn’t have much fur, give them a little man-made protection against the wind and cold.  Imagine what it would be like if you were to go outside in the middle of the winter in shorts and a t-shirt.
  1. FOOD & WATER.Depending on the amount of time pets spend outside, they may need to consume more food.  The converse of that is true too.  If your pet is not as active during the summer months, it won’t need to consume as many calories.  The biggest concern for pets that kept outside is access to water.  Water bowls tend to freeze and the pet can become dehydrated. Dehydration can put pets into shock more quickly and reduces their ability to handle low temperatures. Heated water bowls are just one of the many products available for this problem.
  1. ANTIFREEZE & SALT.One of the biggest dangers during the winter months is antifreeze poisoning. Antifreeze smell good and tastes great to pets.  Keep an eye on your pet in the garage or anywhere that dangerous chemicals are stored. If you suspect antifreeze poisoning, do not wait for symptoms to appear.  Transport immediately to your veterinarian.  If you use salt to melt ice on your sidewalks or driveway, be sure to check and clean you pet’s paws after going outside.  Salt is not deadly, but over time, it can cause problems to pets with kidney disease.  It’s very common for pets to ingest toxic substances by licking their paws and coat.
  1. SNOUT-TO-TAIL. A really good habit to get into is checking your pet, from snout-to-tail after every outing – all year round.  During the winter, ice crystals can get trapped in the paws and pads of your pets, potentially causing tissue damage.  Salt crystals can also get trapped in your pet’s paws.  The greatest danger here is that your pet will lick their paws and ingest the salt or other substances trapped there.  Also, sharp or hard objects hidden under the snow and ice can damage the pads and nails.
  1. EMERGENCIES & VETERINARIANS.Knowing pet first aid is important to your pet surviving a medical emergency.  Knowing in advance the location and shortest route to pet emergency when dealing with your frostbitten or hypothermic pet is vital to your pet’s survival.  Have a first aid kit ready and be familiar with the items inside.  Have a blanket big enough to transport your pet.
  1. EMERGENCY NUMBERS.If your pet is outside or the heat is not on, have someone you can call to assist.  Have an existing relationship with a neighbor, friend, family member, house or pet sitter will give you immeasurable peace of mind if the weather turns cold. A quick call to this person can save time to let your pet in or turn the heat up and turn on the animal channel for your pet.

As your pet’s caretaker, you are ultimately responsible for its well being and care during every season.  Your pet depends on you to create an environment that is safe and comfortable for them.  With a little preparation and forethought you and your pet can have a safe and fun time singing and howling together,“Let it snow!  Let it snow!  Let it snow!”

Have a safe and happy holiday,

 Poseidon and Family




Sponsored by David Gillespie

Alaska Canine Services