Over the past month or two we’ve brought you a LOT of content about how to keep your pet safe during the winter season and holidays. Today we’re bringing you a one-stop shop for all of the best safety info we can offer! Presenting… The CHS Winter Pet Safety Round Up!
Top Winter Safety Tips!
- Use pet friendly ice melt to prevent burns and accidental poisonings.
- Keep antifreeze and other winter chemicals far away from curious paws.
- Watch your pet outside. If they are lifting paws or shivering, bring them in.
- Keep cats indoors and provide extra environmental enrichment to keep kitty entertained.
- Shovel a clear path for ‘potty time’ when it gets really cold. If possible, locate this space close to the door to minimize the time your dog spends outside in very cold weather, especially if you have a small dog.
- Keep your pet on leash (except in off leash areas). Remember: slippery roads means cars cannot stop as fast and it only takes a split second for a dog to investigate a dangerous winter chemical. Keep Fido on leash for safety.
- Invest in a warm jacket for your pet if they get cold easily.
- Keep wind warnings and frostbite warnings in mind when making decisions about walks. As the mercury drops it may be better to go on multiple short walks instead of one long one.
- If your pet does spend time outside, make sure your pet has free access to an adequate shelter. A shelter used in winter must be insulated, heated and have a wind break to prevent cold wind from blowing into the living area.
- Bang on the hood of your car before starting the car! Stray cats often find engines and block heaters to be a source of warmth and may curl up under the hood of a car for a nap. Each year in Calgary several cats are injured after being caught in engine parts when a car is starting. Banging the hood of the car and listening for movement gives any sleeping feline a chance to escape.
Keep winter chemicals far away from curious paws!
Antifreeze is one of the biggest hazards for pets in the winter. Just a few sips of antifreeze can be lethal to a pet, so keeping this winter chemical far away from curious noses is an absolute must. If you are purchasing antifreeze, look for brands that have bittering agents added. Antifreeze is naturally sweet, so some companies now add these bittering agents to prevent pets from drinking it.
Ice melt can also be hazardous to pets! Not only is it hazardous if ingested (if your pet licks it off their paws) but it can also cause burns to paw pads. When shopping for ice melt, purchase a pet friendly option and if you have your pet out for a walk avoid patches of ice melt by picking your pet up or walking around the ice melt.
How cold is too cold to walk the dog? This is an age-old question. Unfortunately it’s also not the easiest to answer. Different breeds of dogs will have very different tolerances to snow and cold. If you have a husky there is a pretty good chance you don’t have to worry much about the cold, whereas a chihuahua may be trying to figure out how to borrow your credit card to book a tropical vacation as soon as the mercury starts to drop. Knowing a little bit about the breed of animal you have will give you some hints about whether or not they can tolerate the cold.
Generally animals with thick coats are much more hardy in cold weather, but there are also individual differences. If your dog has arthritis or back/neck problems, they may get a bit sore as the temperature drops. If you are concerned that cold weather is causing problems with your pet, we recommend booking an appointment with your veterinarian.
OK, so how do you tell if it’s too cold? Well if your dog is holding their paws up or shivering they are too cold and would probably rather be elsewhere. If your dog is running in circles, leaping into snow banks or, like my dog right now, using their face as a snow plow, then they probably like the snow and are perfectly happy playing in it.
Do dog boots work?
If your dog has been trained to wear boots, they can be helpful. If your dog has not been trained to wear boots then probably not. Boots can be distracting and annoying to a dog that isn’t used to them, so if you do decide to use boots a slow and positive introduction to them is vital!
If you are not using boots for your dog then some extra vigilance is needed in the winter time. Many types of ice melting chemicals are toxic and can also cause burns to your dog’s paw pads. When encountering possible ice melt on walks, encourage your dog to walk in the snow or (if you have a small dog) consider picking them up and lifting them over the patches of ice melt. When you return from winter walks, be sure to wipe your dog’s paws well to keep them from licking any salt/ice melt off their feet. If you are purchasing ice melt for your own property, invest in a pet-friendly version! Pet friendly ice melt won’t burn paws and is non-toxic.
What about a coat? Does my dog need one?
If you have a small dog or a dog that gets cold easily then a jacket could be a great idea. Choose a jacket that is the right size and one that doesn’t restrict your pet’s movement.
Festive safety for pets of all shapes and sizes
A lot of the advice in this section refers to winter holiday celebrations, but can be easily applied to summer fun as well!
- Potential pesticides – Real trees can be an indoor hazard for many pets. In 2014 there were some reports that Christmas trees were being sprayed with a pesticide/preservative spray that contained ethylene glycol – a substance that is highly toxic to pets. While there is some debate about whether or not the tree was to blame in the case last year, it is a good reminder to pet owners to be cautious about purchasing trees with artificial sprays or decorative frosting in case a pet chews on the needles.
- Dangerous Decorations – Tinsel and other long stringy decorations can be accidentally eaten by pets and cause damage or blockage of the digestive tract. Decorations painted with toxic paints or adorned with glitter could also be dangerous if eaten while glass decorations can break and injure paws if knocked off the tree. Choose ‘no-break’ or ‘no-shatter’ decorations painted with non-toxic paint to ensure a happy holiday season.
- TIMBER! If you have a very energetic pet (particularly a bigger one) you may want to tether your tree to the wall. It only takes a second for a tree to end up on the floor!
- Watch the water – Fertilizer and other chemicals commonly added to Christmas tree water can be harmful to pets. If you are putting water in your Christmas tree stand be sure to cover it securely to keep curious noses from turning the tree water into a holiday cocktail.
- Other home hazards – Ribbon on gifts can be just as dangerous as tinsel. Candles are another major hazard to curious paws and noses. If your pet is a chewer check all home décor (regardless of season) frequently to ensure they are not eating something they shouldn’t
- Watch out for escape artists – Visits from friends and family are a cherished part of the festive season, but visitors may not know the rules regarding doors and windows. Let visitors know to watch out for any pets that would like to sneak a look at the great outdoors.
- Provide an escape from increasing stress – While we love our visitors, our pets may experience stress with the ‘invasion’ of their living space. When setting up for holiday company, consider setting up a ‘safe room’ for your pet that contains their food, litter, bed and other favorite items.
- Closely supervise pets and children – Visiting children require extra caution at holiday time. Pets who are not used to children can find the loud noises and fast movements of kids to be overwhelming. Even the most animal savvy child may forget some of their manners during the excitement of the holidays, so constant supervision is a must even if the pet and child have met before. Remind children of the ‘rules’ around interacting with pets and let all guests know that the pet’s kennel/’safe room’ are do not disturb zones. Providing a fun “pet themed” activity – like decorating dog cookies – can be a great way to keep kids involved with a family pet that doesn’t enjoy close physical contact with children.
- Keep a routine – Keeping a pet’s regular routine can be very helpful to reduce stress when company comes to visit. Keep meal times, play times and other important times of day as regular as possible to help Fluffy and Fido stay comfortable.
The Big Dinner
- Watch out for toxic treats – Chocolate, artificial sweeteners, garlic, onions, grapes, certain types of nuts, coffee, caffeinated sodas and avocado are toxic to many types of pets. If you know your guests will be tempted to sneak treats to your pet, keep a selection of pet-friendly bites on hand and encourage your guests to give those items instead.
- Prevent “dietary indiscretion” – Dietary indiscretion is a common term used to describe what happens when a pet eats something they shouldn’t. “Unhappy poop” and indigestion are the most common outcome of dietary indiscretion but more serious consequences could be major gastrointestinal issues and pancreatitis. High fat foods, like turkey skin and gravy, are common culprits when ‘dietary indiscretion’ results in gastric upset.
- No turkey bones, please – Dogs love bones, but turkey bones and other cooked bones are a major no-no! Poultry bones are easily broken by many dogs and can splinter, causing injuries and, in some cases, even death. If your dog loves bones, purchase bones intended specifically for pets or consider another type of chew for your pet to enjoy – like antlers or bully sticks.
- Dispose of trash properly – When cleaning up from the big dinner, consider taking all your trash directly outside. Kitchen trash bins can be an irresistible overnight temptation when left out where curious noses can investigate.
Whew! We hope this has been helpful! To finish off our holiday roundup please enjoy some of these great infographics we have shared over the past few months! If you would like to share these images on your own social media we encourage it but please do not crop or alter them.