Winter Hazards for Your Pet

Posted on January 31, 2023

by Dr. Terri Argotsinger

Posted January 31, 2023
Outdoor cats/dogs need help surviving winter !!

Winter can be a time of snowball fights, snuggling by the fire, and ice skating, both for you and for your pets.  However, there are a few hazards that can also be found at this time of year and we want to make sure you and your pet have a safe snowy season! 

 

 

Frostbite 

Frostbite occurs when any animal (including people) are outdoors in cold temperatures and most commonly affects the feet, ears, and tail.  All pets, no matter their size, hair coat, or lifestyle, are susceptible to frostbite.  However, dogs/cats with shorter hair, smaller animals, or animals that are not used to being kept outdoors are more susceptible.  In addition, pets with chronic conditions (such as diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease, or Cushing’s disease) may struggle even more with regulating their body temperatures and can be at a higher risk. 

As a general guideline (for animals not accustomed to outdoors weather): 

If the temperature is between 0 and 32 degrees (including wind chill), dogs should not be outside more than 10-15 minutes.  Smaller dogs and cats should not be outside more than 5-10 minutes.  If the temperature is below 0 degrees, this is cut in half.  Many factors (as noted above) may increase or decrease these values though.   

Consider these tips to help prevent frostbite: 

1.) Use boots or socks to help protect the feet. 

2.) Sweaters or jackets can help keep the core body temperature warm.  Make sure they are not wet though as this will actually increase the dangers of cold weather.   

 

De-Icing Salts 

Many of the common products used to help de-ice your driveway and sidewalks can be toxic to pets, if ingested.  This can happen when they go outside, getting the de-icing salt on their feet.  They will then commonly lick their feet when they come back inside, ingesting the toxic salts.   

It is usually easy to find a pet-safe de-icing salt for use on your driveway and sidewalks.  Morton Safe-T-Pet®  is just one example.  And if you’re going for a walk where you don’t know what type of salts are being used, make sure to wash (or at least wipe) your pets feet after returning home.   

 

Anti-Freeze Products 

Most anti-freeze products are also toxic to pets.  Many pets are attracted to the sweet taste/smell and ingesting even a very small amount can lead to kidney failure.  If you suspect your pet may have gotten into anti-freeze, they need to be taken to an emergency veterinarian immediately.  

 

Rodenticides 

Your home may see an influx of mice/rats during this time of year (they also want to be warm!) but this can cause a danger to our pets if some type of mice or rat bait (rodenticide) is used.  These products can cause severe bleeding problems or life-threatening brain swelling and kidney failure.  There are many type of active ingredients in these products, so if you do use a rodenticide, always keep the package in case of accidental ingestion.     

If you do use a rodenticide in your house or the vicinity, ensure that your pets do not have access to it.  If they do come into contact with the product, contact us or an emergency clinic immediately.  Have the package information available as that will determine if treatment (and what type) is necessary.   

  

Check your car

Many outdoor cats/kittens will seek out warm areas to hide during the colder months.  This can include your vehicle, especially if it was left running outside to warm up.  Although some cats won’t come out, it can help to make a lot of noise before leaving in your vehicle.  For example, bang on the hood or honk the horn to help discourage these feline hitchhikers.   

 

We want all our family members (including our furry ones!) to have a happy winter so do not hesitate to reach out to us if you have any questions or concerns.  And make sure to save some time for snuggling together under a warm blanket! 

By Dr. Terri Argotsinger

Dr. Terri graduated from Iowa State University's college of veterinary medicine in 2008 and has been living/practicing in the Des Moines area for the last 13 years. She's been a vet at Ankeny Animal & Avian Clinic since 2017. She has three orange cats at home that love to keep her busy!
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