When cold weather strikes, we throw on another layer, crank up the furnace, and curl up next to a roaring fire with a hot drink. If we head outside, protective footwear and clothing keeps us warm and dry, sidewalk salt prevents us from slipping and falling, and antifreeze keeps our vehicles running. All these precautions keep you safe and warm during the winter, but what about your pet? Be their advocate, prepare them for frigid situations, and keep them warm, dry, and safe with tips from the Red Oak Animal Hospital team.

#1: Groom your pet appropriately for the weather

Brushing your pet regularly will help prevent their fur from matting, disperse natural skin oils, and remove dead hair. A coat that is free from debris, tangles, and clumps of dead fur acts as excellent thermoregulatory gear. Double-coated dogs and pets with long hair will naturally be warmer, but pets with short coats also benefit from a properly groomed coat’s heat-trapping abilities. However, if you shave your pet during the summer, skip that in the winter, and only trim the long hair around their hind end, paws, and face, as needed.

Also, do not bathe your pet excessively in cold weather, because that will strip their skin of healthy oils that protect against dryness and dandruff, and their damp fur makes them more susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia. Spot clean as needed, and fully bathe your pet only if absolutely necessary.

#2: Dress your pet in properly-fitted winter gear

Before heading outside, outfit your pet in protective winter gear, such as a weatherproof jacket and booties. A jacket will block the sharp wind and keep your pet from being soaked by snow and ice melt, and booties will protect their paws from chemicals and ice shards. 

#3: Prevent your pet’s access to winter chemicals

Chemical hazards, like antifreeze and deicing salt, are common problems for pets in the winter. Keep your pet safe by blocking their access to these products, immediately cleaning up antifreeze spills, and purchasing pet-safe sidewalk salt. When your pet comes back indoors, wash off their paws, legs, and belly to remove any trace of salt. 

#4: Adjust your pet’s diet as needed 

Typically, indoor pets will not be as active during the winter and won’t need as many calories to maintain their current weight. However, horses and other animals who spend their time outdoors likely need increased feed to fuel body heat generation. Monitor your pet’s food intake carefully over the winter and adjust their rations appropriately to prevent them from getting too heavy.

#5: Stock up on your pet’s necessities in case of poor weather conditions

When the snow drifts across the roads and asphalt turns icy, you don’t want to be driving to Red Oak Animal Hospital for your pet’s prescriptions. Monitor the forecast closely, and if inclement weather is in store, stock up in advance on all your pet’s necessities, including medications, food, treats, and warm bedding. Ensure you have all essential supplies on hand should the power go out, and pack an emergency pet travel kit. 

#6: Keep your pet off icy surfaces

Slick surfaces can be covered by snow, making them exceptionally treacherous, even for your four-legged friend. Stick to walking on surfaces you can see fully, checking carefully for patches of ice or freezing water. Never walk across a body of water in the winter, no matter how frozen it looks. Restrain your pet safely by your side when outdoors.

#7: Learn hypothermia and frostbite signs in pets

Hypothermia and frostbite can set in quickly if you are not prepared. Certain pets are more susceptible to cold weather, so you must take extra precautions when venturing outside with pets who:

  • Are young or old
  • Have a short or thin hair coat
  • Have an illness or chronic disease that can worsen in frigid conditions (e.g., arthritis, respiratory problems, or heart issues)
  • Have a metabolic disorder

When outdoors with your pet, keep a close eye on them and head inside if you see the following early hypothermia signs:

  • Shivering
  • Lethargy
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Pale gums
  • Confusion

If their hypothermia progresses, your pet may stop shivering, collapse, develop slow and irregular breathing and heart rates, become comatose, or die. If you see hypothermia signs in your pet, immediately take them inside and bring them back to normal temperature by thinking warm, not hot. Wrap them in towels and blankets fresh from the dryer, place warm water bottles near areas with less fur (e.g., the groin), keeping a layer of fabric between the heat source and your pet’s skin, and avoid heating pads, which can become too warm or burn your pet.

As winter tightens its grip on Bucyrus, take preventive measures to keep your furry pal safe from cold weather hazards. Ensure they are in optimal health and prepared to take on frigid conditions by scheduling a wellness visit with our Red Oak Animal Hospital team.