As long as your cat has a litter box, fresh food and water, and a way to play and exercise, there is really no reason that she has to go outside during the winter. However, it’s a different story with dogs. They need to relieve themselves, go for regular walks, and play outdoors to burn off all their pent-up energy. Even so, make sure that you don’t leave your dog outside in sub-zero temperatures any longer than necessary. Although he might not like to wear clothing, a comfortable coat or sweater can prevent your pet from getting too cold and may make his time outside more enjoyable.
It’s also important to pay attention to the condition of your dog’s paw pads. Spending too much time outside, walking through water or on ice and exposure to sidewalk chemicals can cause bleeding or cracking of their pads. To prevent this, monitor the condition of your dog’s feet often, use pet-friendly sidewalk chemicals, trim the hair between his pads and have him wear protective footwear on all four of his paws if he will tolerate it. Use caution when walking around lakes and rivers since it can be hard to tell from a distance if it’s strong enough to hold your dog’s weight.
Because winter has its fair share of severe weather, it’s important to make a disaster plan with your pet in mind. Disaster preparedness experts typically recommend that you have at least five days’ worth of food, water, and medication set aside in case you suddenly lose power or get stranded away from home.
While it’s important to feed your pet well over the winter, avoid the temptation to overfeed. Contrary to popular belief, the extra weight does not keep your pet warmer. Your dog may require slightly more calories in the winter to generate enough body heat when outdoors. This is definitely something to ask about when you come in for her annual physical exam. In fact, getting an exam in the winter is a good idea if she has a chronic condition such as arthritis that tends to get worse in the cold weather.
Keep Your Pet Away from Anti-Freeze
To a dog or cat, anti-freeze that drips from your car looks like an inviting drink of water. It has the same clear appearance and there is no distinct smell to let your pet know that it’s not safe to drink. Unfortunately, a pet only has to ingest a small amount of anti-freeze for poisoning to occur. If you are unable to wipe up spills on the driveway or garage floor immediately, keep your pet out of the garage and away from your vehicle.
Pay Attention to Your Pet’s Cues
Your pet will let you know when she has had enough of being outside by whining, shivering, slowing down her walking pace, or acting highly anxious. Let this be your guide as to how long you should stay outdoors. If you’re running errands and can’t take your dog inside with you, leave her at home. A cold car in the winter can be just as deadly as a warm car in the summer.
Don’t hesitate to contact us at Chaska Valley Veterinary Clinic with any additional questions about winter pet safety.
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