With colder temperatures on the way, pet owners need to be aware of how to keep their pets safe and warm.
Unity — As we prepare ourselves for the winter, ensuring we have our coats, boots, mittens and scarves ready to go, we often forget about our furry companions.
Some pets enjoy being outdoors while others choose to remain where it is warm. As responsible pet owners, we need to consider what our animals may need or to watch for to keep them safe.
“Winter tends to be harder on dogs than cats,” says Shannon Heitt, owner of Wiggles and Whiskers. She says for dogs that like going for long walks or playing with other dogs at the off-leash park, winter can be a tough transition. Taking the dog for a walk is perfectly fine, just be sure that your pet is warm enough and only out for small sessions at a time, she says.
Heitt recommends creating games for the busy pups. “Games like hide and seek, treat hunting, learning new tricks or just an indoor wrestle session can help work out pent-up energy.”
Dogs have a keen sense of smell, yet scents can be lost in amongst all the snow. If your pet happens to get lost, proper identification can help get your pooch back home. Making sure they are kept warm in a sweater or coat during those off-lease adventures can also help if they get lost.
An animal’s paws tend to take a beating during the winter months. Often, sidewalk salt is made of caustic chemicals, which can lead to third-degree chemical burns to paw pads. There are brands that are pet-friendly, including the salt that is produced here in Unity. Unity Vet Services recommends owners have pets wear booties or have a towel on hand to remove ice and salt buildup. If you are unsure or concerned about the salt, paw wax is also an option to protect those paws.
Frostbite is another condition pet owners need to watch for. Pets that have stayed outside for too long can suffer from frostbite, particularly on the ears, nose, paw pads and end of the tail. A major sign is blue or white skin, swelling, loss of feeling in the area and, in extreme cases, the affected area will fall off. One way to reduce the risk of frostbite is to not shave them before the winter, as the longer hair provides more warmth.
For the animals that live outside such as guard dogs or barn cats on the farms, being sure they have a warm dry place to retreat to is a must. Unity Vet Services says a blanket or bed should cover the floor and the shelter should be big enough for the animal to stand up, lie down and turn around while small enough to maintain the animal’s body heat.
Cats prefer to stay indoors where there is heat. There are times though that a cat will go out to adventure in the snow but if they start to feel a chill, cats will start to seek warmth. The best source of heat is that of a car engine. Unfortunately, it is not the safest place to be when the engine is started up. Drivers should make it standard practice to knock on the hood or honk their horns before starting their vehicles.
Along with this, motorists should be aware of any antifreeze that an animal can get into. Unity Vet Services says the smallest amount of the liquid can cause kidney failure and has the highest mortality rate of any toxin seen in pets.
“It has a sweet taste, dogs tend to drink it or walk across a puddle containing antifreeze, they will lick their paws. Signs of toxicity to watch for are drooling, vomiting, seizures, excessive thirst, panting, lethargy and a drunken appearance.”
Both pet experts in Unity said having the knowledge to know if an animal is in distress is key. Knowing what dog breeds thrive in colder temperatures versus those that don’t help when residents feel they need to contact someone. They also both stress that if you see an animal in distress, to contact local RCMP or Animal Protection Services anonymously at 1-844-382-0002.
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