Vet advice: How to keep your pet safe during winter months

Melissa Holmes|@LissaCHolmes Staff Writer

GLEN ROSE - Temperatures are dropping, and while people are bundling up they also need to remember that their furry family members need protection from the cold weather, too. Dr. Mike Jones, of Glen Rose Veterinary Clinic, said that while pets tend to suffer more in heat, cold weather can still pose a threat to a pet’s health.

Jones provided some useful tips for keeping your pets safe in the colder months.

Provide adequate shelter, Jones suggested. It is not recommended to keep pets outdoors during winter months, but if you are unable to keep your pet indoors, make sure they have a solid shelter from the elements. The bedding inside the shelter should be thick and remain dry to provide warmth. It is best to avoid heating lamps and heated pet mats because of the burn risk involved, according to Jones.

Have plenty of food and water: Pets that remain outdoors in the winter need more food, since they exhaust more energy staying warm during this time. Make sure they have access to fresh, non-frozen water to keep them hydrated and to protect their skin from drying out.

Know your pet’s tolerance to cold weather: Dogs and cats are also prone to frostbite and hypothermia and shouldn’t be outside for long periods of time. An animal’s tolerance for cold weather can vary depending their coat, body fat content and health. Dr. Jones stated that smaller, short-haired dog breeds do not fare well in the elements, so it is best to keep these breeds inside during the winter months.

Check-ups: Colder temperatures can cause certain medical conditions, like arthritis, to worsen making it difficult for your pet to get around and other diseases such as diabetes, heart disease or hormonal imbalances can make it harder for your pet to regulate their body temperature in cold weather. If you are unsure how your pet will handle the cold weather make an appointment with their veterinarian to better understand their needs during the season.

Protect their paws: Cold weather and ice can cause your pet’s paws to crack and bleed, so it is important to check their paws for any damage. Toxic chemicals can also irritate their pads and get on their fur during walks. When you get home be sure to wipe them down before they get a chance to lick it off.

Don’t leave pets in a vehicle: Everyone knows that hot cars are unsafe for pets, but cold ones are harmful as well. During cold weather cars cool down rapidly and hold cold air, which can cause your pet to freeze while inside. It is best to leave them home when running errands. If it is necessary to bring them make sure they aren't left unattended in the vehicle.

Poisons: Dr. Jones did point out that one of the deadly hazards for pets during the cold weather season is antifreeze. During the colder months many people are winterizing their cars and antifreeze poisoning can occur when a pet licks up the spillage.

Once a pet gets into antifreeze it can affect their brain, liver and kidneys causing possible kidney failure. Some of the symptoms of antifreeze poisoning include uncoordinated movement, nausea/vomiting, excessive urination, diarrhea and fainting.

If you suspect that your pet has gotten into antifreeze get them to the veterinarian immediately. Dr. Jones said it only takes four hours from the time an animal ingest antifreeze for it to be lethal. It also doesn’t take a large amount of liquid to cause fatal damage. According to PetMd, less than three ounces can poison a medium-sized dog.

To help avoid antifreeze poisoning Dr. Jones stresses for pet owners not to discard antifreeze carelessly. If it is possible, take it to an auto shop for proper disposal. It is also recommended that pet owners keep antifreeze lids tight and out of the reach of pets and to check their cars regularly for leaks and repair them as soon as possible to prevent accidental poisoning.