In spite of their fur, animals are not immune to the winter cold, so please bring your pets inside when the temperature drops. Don’t leave them in the cold unsupervised for long periods of time. And remember that the wind-chill factor creates colder conditions than what the thermometer indicates. Here are some guidelines for protecting your pets during the winter.
1. Watch out for antifreeze
Antifreeze often accumulates on driveways and roads. Although many animals like the smell and taste of antifreeze, it is highly poisonous and can be deadly, even in very small amounts. Clean up any spills and keep antifreeze containers out of reach.
2. Clean and treat their paws
Rinse or wipe off their paws after walks, before they have a chance to lick them. You can have your longhaired pets’ excess fur trimmed around the toes and pawpads to help prevent snow accumulation.
Certain products made from plant-based fats or waxes, available for sale in pet supply stores, can also help protect their paws. These balms can create a protective barrier, as well as moisturize your dog’s pawpads to prevent cracking and chafing.
3. Have them wear boots
Boots can protect your dog’s sensitive paws, not only from the cold, but also from rock salt and chemical products used to melt snow. If you decide to use protective booties for your dog, make sure they fit snuggly but are not too tight. Otherwise, they may cut off your dog’s circulation and cause frostbite.
To get your dog used to wearing boots, use positive reinforcement with a clicker and treats. The goal is to associate wearing boots with something positive for your animal.
4. Keep their coat healthy and dry
Brush your pet on a regular basis. A well-groomed coat will more effectively provide insulation from the cold. Consider a sweater or coat if your pet is shorthaired.
When your pet’s coat gets wet, the fur loses much of its insulating ability; do not take your pet outdoors after a bath unless their fur is completely dry.
5. Limit time spent outdoors
Frostbite occurs when an animal’s body gets so cold that the blood is pulled from the extremities to the body’s core to stay warm. Your pet’s nose, tail, ears and toes are the most vulnerable to cold temperatures.
This is why, to prevent frostbite and hypothermia, it is important to avoid staying outside for too long and to limit outings during periods of very cold weather. Very young, old, smaller or ill animals are particularly susceptible to hypothermia.
Consider engaging your pet with some stimulating indoor activities, such as hide-and-seek with their favorite toy or treat. Did you know that for a dog, 15 minutes of mental stimulation can be equivalent to an hour of running in terms of energy expenditure? You could also visit the Montreal SPCA Boutique for some great interactive toys for your cats and dogs!
6. Beware of pools and lakes
When walking or playing with your pet near a frozen pool, lake, river or pond, make sure they do not go onto its surface since they could fall through the ice. Keep your pet on a leash and supervise them at all times.
It is also very important to block all access to your pool, as your companion may venture onto it and become trapped in the icy water.
7. Don’t let your animal approach metal poles
Some dogs have a bad habit of licking poles and in the winter their tongue may stick to the frozen metal, with tragic consequences, as one can imagine. It is therefore essential to avoid getting too close to poles, signposts and metal fences. If you have metal structures in your yard, you can cover them with floating noodles.
Small actions that can save lives this winter
In the winter, cats and small wild animals are often attracted to the warm engine of parked cars and may crawl under the hood. Remember to bang on your car’s hood or honk the horn to scare them away before starting your engine.
You can also build a warm shelter for outdoor cats in just a few steps. Easy and inexpensive to create, these shelters will of course save lives, but they can also help prevent frostbite.