Now that winter is here to stay for awhile, there are a few things that pet owners should be aware of. Even when there isn’t snow on the ground, there are other issues pets can have during the winter.
For pets that go outside or are kept outside, there is a time when it is too cold for them to be out for an extended period of time.
The degree of coldness that a pet can tolerate is different for each individual animal. A small breed dog with little hair can’t be out for long because they lose body heat very quickly. A larger breed dog with a thick undercoat can tolerate the colder weather better. Erring on the safe side when temperatures drop below freezing will help keep the animals safe. Ohio weather can be unpredictable so don’t assume your pet will be safe outside if the day starts out to be mild and warmer.
Cats and dogs (regardless of size and hair coat) can suffer from frost bite just like humans. Their hairless or thinned-haired areas, like their ear tips and pads, are the most likely places to get frost bite. Pets left outside can also have their water source freeze over and can be left without water. This will often lead to dehydration.
For cats, they can be so desperate to find heat that they will curl up on a warm engine under the hood of a car that was recently used. Unfortunately, when the car is turned back on, the fan belt can cause serious damage to the cat including mutilation of a leg or face. Cats can also get trapped in places that were warm initially like a garage, and be caught in there for an extended period of time without food or water.
For dogs in particular, the snow and ice pose some issues. Anterior cruciate ligaments in the dogs’ knees can be torn when they slip on ice and trudge through the snow. When owners take dogs for walks, try to avoid the salt that it used to melt the ice. It can be very irritating to their pads and can be a mouth and stomach irritant if eaten from the ground or licked from their paws. Avoid having dogs walk on roads that have been treated and, if they come in contact with it, rinse the affected areas (usually feet and muzzle) thoroughly. Contact a veterinarian if they eat it.
Finally, this past winter was relatively mild with very little snow or frigid weather. This allowed for many of the parasites (especially fleas, ticks and intestinal parasites) to hang around in higher numbers and, therefore, we experienced a very bad year for parasite infestations in dogs and cats. Many pet owners stop their prevention for fleas, ticks, heartworm, and intestinal worms for the winter. Continuing the prevention throughout the winter months can keep the parasites from getting out of control when the weather doesn’t stay cold for a significant period of time.
Even if pets don’t spent a great deal of time outside when the weather is cold and gloomy, they can still come in to contact with situations that can pose problems for them.