Winter continues to hold us within her icy grip, and pet owners need to take precautions to keep their animals safe and healthy.
The danger may be worse than what the thermometer reads. The wind chill factor can drop the temperature by 20 or 30 degrees. In other words, if the thermometer reads 34 degrees, the wind can make it feel like zero. So even dogs and cats that stay outside in warmer weather may have to be brought inside in extreme cold snaps. Be attentive to your dog’s body temperature and limit time outdoors.
An adequate shelter means your pet is kept warm, dry and away from drafts. That is easy enough to do in most homes, but remember that tile and uncarpeted areas can get very cold. If your pet lives in a shelter of his own, make sure that it is raised off the ground, has dry bedding and is insulated or heated. Make sure also that your pet has a constant source of clean water — not snow. Thermal heaters are available to make sure the water source doesn’t freeze.
But portable heaters and fireplaces are potentially deadly hazards for small animals. Screen all fireplaces and place portable heaters out of their reach.
Common Holiday Hazards for Pets
Wintertime holidays are generally indoors. Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas are times of family gathering. Homes are decorated and special foods are made. Here’s some common holiday hazards for pets you should try and avoid.
- During this holiday season, many lights are displayed. With these lights come electric cords. Pets can find these cords interesting and fun chew toys. Electric shock or electric burns can occur.
- Christmas tree tinsel can be a serious problem if ingested. Tinsel on the tree is a fun play toy for dogs and cats.
- Live Christmas trees can become a fire hazard and a house fire can occur. Pets trapped in fires may suffer from thermal burns, smoke inhalation or carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Many special foods are made during the holidays. Chocolate is a popular food. Excessive chocolate can be toxic to dogs and cats.
- Inquisitive pets may tear open wrapped gifts and could destroy the contents of the gift. Limiting access to the gift area will eliminate this potential disaster.
- Ingestion of large amounts of high fat foods can result in serious gastrointestinal upset.
Holiday Hazards for Pets that Can Happen Outside
Winter is a time of wonderful holidays, cooler weather and scenic vistas. It is also a time of potential hazards. Here are some ways to help you to keep your pet safe this winter.
Take Special Care with Antifreeze. Buy antifreeze that does not contain ethylene glycol. Antifreeze is very toxic due to this chemical component. It is sweet and tasty to pets, and lethal even in small quantities. Buy brands that do not contain ethylene glycol, such as Sierra®, and be sure to keep all antifreeze out of reach of your pets. Even antifreeze without ethylene glycol is toxic in large quantities.
Beep Your Horn. Cats often curl up in warm engines in the winter and suffer severe injury from the fan belt when the engine is started. Beeping your horn before starting your engine can help scare cats away.
Prevent Frostbite. Frostbite is injury to tissue that occurs when an animal is exposed to freezing temperatures (often accompanied by high winds). Keep your pet warm — provide warm bedding indoors. Minimize exposure to cold temperatures, especially pets that are used to being primarily in warm climates or indoors. Provide good bedding and warm doghouses for outdoor dogs. Severely cold temperatures are intolerable for even the toughest of pets. When the temperature is below freezing, consider allowing your pet to spend sometime indoors. Consider adding a doggie door to the garage or basement door to allow safe escape from severe temperatures.
Take Special Care Around Bodies of Water. Be careful around frozen lakes and bodies of water as weak areas can allow pets to fall through. Keep your pets on a leash and do not allow them to navigate on the ice.
Holiday Hazards for Pets — the Christmas Tree
Christmas, New Year’s, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa — and all the celebrations they entail pose safety problems for pets. Aside from the over excitement and confusion caused by too many guests, there are purely physical problems: A dog can singe a tail on a candle or can swallow tinsel and wind up with an intestinal blockage that may need surgery to repair.
- Don’t use edible ornaments or fragile, easily breakable glass decorations to trim the tree. Your pet may knock over the tree trying to get to them and your dog may decide they’re toys and cut himself trying to play with them.
- Don’t use angel hair. It’s made of spun glass and can cause irritation on contact.
- Make sure electrical cords are out of reach, taped firmly to walls or floors. Chewing on wires may cause burns or pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs), which can be fatal.
- Don’t use wire ornament hooks that can easily snag an ear or a tail, or, if swallowed, can lodge in the throat or intestines. Instead, fashion loops of yarn, ribbons or light weight twine. And be careful not to leave any of that lying around.
Holiday Hazards for Pets — Ice and Snow
When there is ice and snow, you can expect various melting products to be on the ground. Ice melt products are typically made of salt. When your pet walks through the ice and snow, particles of salt, sand or even ice crystals can become lodged in the webbing. Your pet may even ingest the salts by licking his paws, which can cause illness. Keep your pet’s paws healthy in winter by following these suggestions:
- After each walk, wash off your pet’s feet. This will remove any ice and road salt that can cause excessive dryness.
- Trim the hair between your pet’s toes to reduce the chance of collecting ice and snow crystals.
- Petroleum jelly can be placed on the surface of the pads, especially prior to walking outdoors.
- For serious cases, special booties made of neoprene can be used to protect the footpads.
Resources for Holiday Hazards for Pets
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