If you are too cold to be outside without a coat, your dog probably is, too. If your cat eats just one of your acetaminophen cold or flu pills, it could be fatal.
Those are just a few of the tips experts offer to keep pets safe this winter. Here are some other basic cold-weather precautions with pets from experts and animal welfare organizations.
From the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals:
n Keep your dog leashed in the snow and make sure it has an ID tag. Dogs can lose scents in snow and get lost.
n Keep your dog’s coat longer for warmth. If you have a short-haired pet, get a coat or sweater with a high collar or turtleneck that covers it from the base of its tail to its belly.
n Don’t leave a pet unattended in a car. The vehicle can act like a refrigerator, holding in the cold and freezing your pet to death.
n Puppies may be difficult to housebreak in winter. If weather bothers a puppy, try paper-training indoors.
n Make sure your pet has a warm place to sleep, away from drafts and if possible, off the floor.
n Outdoor cats and wildlife will often sleep under hoods of cars. Bang on the hood before starting the car to give the animal a chance to escape.
From the Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital:
n Pets, like people, are vulnerable to hypothermia and frostbite. Get your pet to a vet if it is shivering, disoriented and lethargic or if its hair is puffed out and standing on end. Frostbite can turn skin bright red, pale or black. Skin at the tips of ears and on extremities are particularly at risk.
n Antifreeze can be fatal to a pet, even in small amounts. They will need immediate emergency care. Symptoms of antifreeze poisoning include drunk-like behavior, vomiting, excessive urination, drinking and depression. Pets may appear to recover within a few hours, but the antifreeze continues to poison their systems and is often fatal. Don’t ever dump antifreeze on the ground, and store it away from pets. If there is a spill, sop it up immediately.
From the Humane Society of the United States:
n Dogs kept outdoors should have a dry, draft-free doghouse big enough for the dog to sit and lie down in comfortably but small enough to hold its body heat. The floor should be a few inches off the ground and covered with cedar shavings or straw. The house should face away from wind and the doorway should be covered with waterproof burlap or heavy plastic.
n Use plastic food and water bowls instead of metal because your pet’s tongue can stick and freeze to metal.
From the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center in Urbana, Ill.:
n Use pet-friendly versions of products that melt ice on steps, driveways and sidewalks. Products like Safe Paw and Safe-T-Pet avoid chemicals that irritate pets’ paws (and their stomachs, if they lick their paws). The pet-friendly products are usually colored so you can also see where you’ve sprinkled them, said Dr. Camille DeClementi, the Animal Poison Control Center’s senior toxicologist.
n Keep pets away from medication commonly used during cold and flu season. Two hours after an average cat eats just one tablet containing 500 grams of acetaminophen, it may start having trouble breathing. In addition to gasping, other life-threatening signs of acetaminophen poisoning in cats that require immediate veterinary care include swollen face and paws, lethargy, and discolored gums, DeClementi said.
n Dogs are less sensitive to acetaminophen because they tend to be bigger, but four or five of the pills eaten by a 50-pound dog can cause liver failure, she said. If a dog eats your decongestant and it contains pseudoephedrine, the animal can experience a racing heart, tremors and even seizures.
n Keep pets away from heating pads. They can get a shock from chewing on electric cords and can be poisoned by chewing on iron oxide pads, DeClementi said.
n Watch where you place baits and poison to kill rodents that find their way into homes to get warm in winter, DeClementi said.
From the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles shelter:
n Brush your dog regularly because heaters dry the air and deplete moisture from your pet’s skin and fur.
n Monitor older or sick pets that might be more sensitive to colder weather.
n Never leave a portable heater unattended with pets around.
n Add a blanket to the pet portion of your family’s emergency preparedness kit.