Winter Is Upon Us. Take Heed!

By Dr. Doug Pernikoff, DVM

We are just getting a taste of winter weather, albeit with little snow, but more than enough frigid cold. What are our pet concerns this time of year? Many should be obvious, but nonetheless, we will review them for our reading audience.

Cold can be threatening, but wet cold and wind are really the culprits of concern. Obviously, the best protection for your pets is to keep them inside your home, the basement, or even the garage. Yet, even these protected areas may not be enough. Provide insulating materials for floor coverings, or in some cases you might consider hanging a heat light or radiant heater, which are available at most hardware stores. For pets obligated to an outside dog house, be sure to insulate the walls, floor and ceiling. Straw floors can be useful, but need to be cleaned regularly to avoid pet exposure to collecting feces or urine.

Pet clothing is a significant industry these days. I believe there is real value in considering some sort of pet apparel that not only spruces his/her looks, but keeps their core body temperature in a proper range. Remember that ears, muzzles & lips, and certainly, feet are all going to be inordinately exposed to the elements. You may need to protect those areas with coverings, or at least with regular cleaning and care as well. Ice and snow can pack up between the toes and pads of the feet, creating damage or even frostbite. Ears are particularly vulnerable to this condition. It is basically, a freezer burn to the tissue that may result in a full tissue slough, if you are not careful.

Another big concern in wintertime regards all the chemicals and other products available to your pets, especially for pets who are being housed in basements and garages. Lock up fertilizers, bug sprays and the like. Be sure the cabinets and storage boxes are secure. Whatever is safe for your kids is good policy to employ for your pets. Electric cords for heaters and such, need to be secured away from your exploring pets, as they can bite straight away and either get an electric burn, or even electrocution. And, we always discuss the concerns of anti-freeze, or ethylene glycol, which most of us use in our winter radiators. The problem is that this chemical is sweet tasting and thereby, an attractant for pets. The poisoning by anti-freeze is dose and time dependent. If you have any inclination of a poisoning or exposure, please take your pet to the vet or to an emergency facility immediately.

One last note concerns cats. They are amazingly capable at protecting themselves in the height of winter and usually do just fine. Nonetheless, I encourage all cat owners to follow all the concerns and suggestions presented herein. Cats like to hide up in the car engine where they find adequate heat. I can tell you that nary a winter season goes by without cats being injured or killed when their owners unknowingly start the engine as they leave for work. Please be careful and mindful of both your cats and your dogs, and consciously implement good cautionary practices on their behalf.

Enjoy the beauty and serenity of winter time. Just do it carefully!!

Dr. Doug Pernikoff
Clarkson-Wilson Veterinary Clinic
Vet Pet Rescue