As colder weather approaches, many of us are tempted to cozy up inside by the fire and hibernate for the winter. Others worry about what winter weather means for their pets, and we are here to help. While we encourage you to get outside regularly with your pet for fresh air and exercise, consider the following cold-weather safety questions as the temperatures begin to drop. 

Question: Does my pet need to wear a coat outside?

Answer: The short answer—it likely doesn’t hurt. But, note that your pet donning a sweater does not mean she is equipped to spend excessive amounts of time outside in frigid temps. When choosing a coat or jacket for your pup, ensure the clothing fits securely and that she is monitored, as she could suffocate if she is dressed improperly. Cats will likely not tolerate coats or other protective gear, so they aren’t advised for our feline friends.

Q: Can my pet’s feet get cold?

A: Your pet’s feet can chap, crack, or bleed, thanks to snow, slush, and deicing chemicals. Since pets don’t typically wear shoes, the harsh conditions can ravage delicate paws, so consider a pair of pet booties if you and your pet will be spending time outside in these conditions. A good rule of thumb—if it is too cold outside for you, it is too cold for your pet. 

Q: Can you help with my concerns about walking with my pet in the dark?

A: The shorter, darker winter days can make getting outside with your pet more troublesome. Those who work outside the home often wake up and return home when it is dark outside, making walking conditions with pets potentially unsafe. Stick to lighted routes, and always walk on a sidewalk or designated pedestrian space. If it is particularly icy, consider postponing your walk. Fit yourself and your pet with reflective gear, such as a vest for you and a collar and leash for her, and consider purchasing an LED light to attach to your pet’s gear for added visibility. 

Q: Is it safe to use deicing products on my driveway and sidewalk?

A: Most commercially available deicers are made from chlorides and rock salts. When these chemicals come into contact with water at low temperatures, a high-heat reaction occurs, leading to ice melt. Animals can suffer painful paw burns when exposed to these chemicals, and are subject to gastrointestinal burns or salt toxicity if the chemicals are ingested. Play it safe, and stick with a pet-friendly urea-based deicer such as this one.  

Q: Is it true that pets can get sick from antifreeze ingestion?

A: Pets are attracted to antifreeze, which is commonly found in household garages, due to its sweet taste. Unfortunately, this highly poisonous substance can be lethal in only small doses, causing acute kidney failure and a variety of clinical signs. Keep all antifreeze products far out of pets’ reach and, if possible, opt for a less toxic propylene glycol formula. 

Q: Why is my pet’s skin so flaky?

A: Winter’s cold, dry air, often makes our skin dry, itchy, and flaky. Not surprisingly, our pets can experience similar signs. Consider setting up a home humidifier to help moisturize the air, and give your pet an essential fatty acid supplement to support the skin barrier from the inside out. A moisturizing and exfoliative bath can help remove some of your pet’s dead skin cells, but avoid bathing her too much, which can make dry skin worse. 

Do you have additional cold-weather safety questions regarding your pets? Contact our veterinary team today.