De-icing products can be unsafe
There’s a bit of controversy surrounding what is a “pet-safe” de-icing product. Back when there was only good old NaCl (salt), pets could make themselves significantly ill if they licked enough residue from their paws after a walk in the winter wonderland. And salt can be especially irritating to the skin as well.
More recently, a number of products have become available that are less irritating to the skin, but they all still contain compounds that can cause illness if ingested. Granted, it takes ingesting quite a bit of any of these products to cause serious complications in pets, and the amount that they tend to ingest when licking icy residue from their paws is minimal. However, I’m rarely shocked at the things that pets will eat – especially dogs – so it’s important to keep your pets away from these products during use, and shovel away the slush once they’ve done their job.
Pets get cold, just like us
Some people seem to believe that because cats and dogs have fur, they’re able to withstand cold temperatures better than humans. And certainly the so-called “Northern breeds,” like Huskies and Malamutes, seem especially impervious to the cold. But the temperatures can drop enough to present danger to any animal, and those that are small with short coats are at the greatest risk. Exposed skin in areas on the periphery of the body, such as ears, noses, and feet, are especially sensitive, and can quickly become compromised at low temperatures.
Never leave pets exposed to the cold when the temperature falls below the freezing mark. Bring all animals inside, and if this isn’t possible provide shelter with blankets and a heating source, as well as a way to keep water from freezing. Now, our GSDs love the cold much more than most dogs, which is fine but make sure they can have a warm place to go when they start getting cold. When it drops below freezing here my GSD refuses to come inside where my Pit Bull would much rather lay in the ray of death as I call it, (the sun shinning in the window) and will hold her bladder as long as she can before stepping foot outside.
Ice is a slippery slope
Cats and dogs don’t typically fall on the ice and break a bone, or hit their heads, like humans. Four legs and a lower center of gravity seem to provide quite a bit of protection, however they can still slip on the ice and sustain bruises, or tear ligaments. Cranial cruciate ligament ruptures – similar to a “torn ACL” in people – occur with some frequency in dogs when they slip while playing on ice and snow.
Ice and crusty snow can cause substantial damage to your dog’s paws. They can slice into the feet like a knife, and a dog that’s frolicking in the snow can sustain a deep laceration when they come into contact with this stuff. These cuts almost always have to be stitched, and they take a couple of weeks to heal – and that’s with strict rest and bandaging.
Don’t forget to take special care around frozen ponds, as the ice may not be sufficiently strong to support your pet’s weight.
Pain is intensified
People with arthritis report that cold weather intensifies their pain. No one seems to really understand why, but it’s pretty widely reported. Some people even feel that they can predict when the weather is starting to change, because their creaky joints hurt more.
In addition, people with bone plates or joint implants report that they can “feel” these metal structures when the weather is cold. The theory is that the metal transfers the cold directly to the surrounding bone, and the end result is mild pain at a previously unpainful site.
Staying warm may be more difficult for the sick
If your dog or cat is already dealing with a health problem, the cold weather may make it more difficult for them to regulate their body temperature. Hormonal diseases especially complicate this, such as thyroid problems, diabetes, and Cushing’s disease.
However, don’t use the fact that it’s wintertime as an excuse to let your pet gain weight! Any residual warmth gained by adding pounds isn’t worth it, since being overweight increases the risk of a number of conditions. So resolve to keep your pet at a healthy weight through the winter, and all year-round.
Ethylene glycol, the active ingredient in most automotive antifreeze, is highly toxic even in very small amounts to dogs and cats. It rapidly destroys the kidneys, and without very aggressive treatment (and many times even with it), it’s fatal.
Antifreeze should always be properly disposed of, and you should take care to carefully clean your dog’s feet after a particularly sloshy winter’s walk, to ensure that any residue (potentially antifreeze-containing) is removed, so that they can’t lick it off.
We talk a lot during the summer months about how hot cars can get, and how deadly it can be to leave your pets inside while you shop or run errands. But you should be aware that the inside of your car can get extremely cold as well, when the temperature is low. Always consider whether it would be better to leave your pet at home on a cold day, where his comfort is assured.
There are several ways to protect your dogs feet from the elements and the harsh chemicals. One way is booties for your pup, an added bonus to this is watching the way your dog walks with these on. You can also buy or make paw balm for you pup. I will be posting the recipe for paw balm soon and will link it here.
I hope you all enjoyed this post. If you have any questions feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org