Ask the Vet: Top 5 Cold Weather Pet Safety Tips by Stefanie Wong, DVM

With temperatures outside dropping and snow falling on the mountains in Tahoe, we have officially entered into winter!  Here are five tips to keep in mind to help you and your pet enjoy this winter season safely:

1. Bundle up!
Even with their fur coat, your pet may need help staying warm. This is important especially for young puppies and kittens, older geriatrics, and sick pets, as they often have altered metabolism that causes them to lose heat more readily. Sweaters can help to retain body heat and booties can help to protect their paws from the elements. When spending time outside, keep an eye on your pet. If they are giving signals that they’re cold, or if you are starting to feel chilled yourself it’s probably time to go inside. 

2. Keep your pet at home and out of the car.
In the winter your car can act like a refrigerator. Once the engine stops running, temperatures can quickly take a nosedive and pets left alone in cars may be at risk for hypothermia. ** Special note: Outdoor and feral cats often seek out warm places to curl up in the wintertime. Often one of the warmest places is under the car hood, near the motor. If your car is parked outside, be sure to bang on your car hood prior to starting your car. Also check around your tires as cats may choose to sleep below the car to seek refuge from the rain and snow.

3. Watch out for antifreeze!
Antifreeze contains a toxin called ethylene glycol, which can be toxic and deadly to pets. It's sweet tasting, which unfortunately can make it very tempting. Even small amounts can cause severe acute kidney failure. Clean up any spills around your car immediately and make the antifreeze is stored a safe, secured location.

4. After your walk... it's important to wipe off your pet's paws after they've been outside.
De-icing chemicals, salt and foreign objects can get trapped inside your pet's fur and between their paws. They can be irritating to their paws if left on, and may be toxic if ingested. While wiping, check paws for any cracks or bleeding.

5. Time for a check up?
Is your pet slow to get up after lying down for a period of time? Do they seem stiff in the morning and then get better as the day goes on? Do you notice that they no longer jump or play like they used to? If the answer to any of the above questions is yes, your pet may have arthritis. Often these symptoms can become more pronounced as temperatures drop. Pets with arthritis often may benefit from starting glucosamine-chondroitin supplements like Cosequin DS or prescribed non-steroidal anti-inflammatory pain relievers like Carprofen or Meloxicam. Talk to your veterinarian to see if these symptoms are indicated in your pet.

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