Surprisingly, very few people are aware of the number of dangers that are present to our beloved pets during the winter. With a bit of knowledge and common sense, you can keep your dogs and outdoor cats safe during the cold months.
Ethylene glycol, the ingredient found in anti-freeze, is lethal to animals. It is often licked from driveways and roads by cats and dogs, who aren’t immediately repulsed by the aftertaste, so end up consuming enough of the chemical for it to be toxic.
Antifreeze is used to de-ice cars in the winter, usually in the form of sprays for the windshield, coolant in the engine, and in hydraulic brake fluids, quite often running down and dripping onto the pavement where animals walk or roam.
Rapid heart beat
Wobbly, uncoordinated movement
Ensure that any spilt antifreeze is cleaned up immediately.
If you suspect that your pet may have been in contact with anti-freeze, then a trip to the vet is in order, as toxicity can result in fatality.
For a much gentler, effective solution to defrosting car windows, use a mix of distilled white vinegar and water, and spritz onto the glass.
Rock salt/road grit.
When a big freeze is forecast, many towns and cities employ gritting trucks to spread rock salt across the roads to prevent ice buildup. However, when consumed, rock salt can cause dehydration, pancreatitis, and liver failure in dogs and cats.
Animals tend to groom themselves after being walked or going outside, and deposits of both rock salt, and ethylene glycol are thus ingested from their paws, resulting in possible poisoning.
Symptoms of consuming rock salt – which contains the same ingredient as table salt, sodium chloride, but also has harmful chemicals such as magnesium – include burns to the mouth and throat and excessive salivating and drinking.
Prevention is the best form of attack, so when your pets have been outside during the winter, give their paws a quick wipe with some soapy water, and rinse well. Keep fur around the paws as short as possible to prevent a buildup of toxic substances that can be ingested by your pet.
Frostbite and hypothermia.
Even a short amount of exposure to below-zero temperatures can result in frostbite of the paws, ears, and nose in both dogs and cats, or even hypothermia, where the core body temperature drops dangerously low, especially in short-haired animals, and those with low fat reserves/lean bodies.
If you absolutely insist on keeping your pets outside during even the worst weather, then ensure they have a warm shelter to retreat to, as well as blankets, or better still, a sweater designed for their breed. Dog houses need to be just large enough for your dog to be able to stand up, and turn around. Larger than necessary crates/houses do not retain heat. If you are too cold outside, then your pets are too.
When temperatures drop, replace your pet’s metal food and water bowls with plastic or ceramic ones to prevent the chance of the animal’s tongue from sticking to the surface.
Cats love cars.
In cold weather, cats have been known to crawl up under the front of cars that are parked, in an attempt to find warmth from the engine. When getting ready to go out in your vehicle, lean inside and either honk the horn, or slap the hood to scare away any cats that may be hiding in your engine. Failure to do so could result in the cat being fatally injured when the engine is started, and a gory mess for you to clean.
Make sure you do everything possible to prevent any heartache this winter by following common sense, and keeping your pets warm, safe, and healthy.