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Winter Can Be Hard On Pets, Too

If you’re fleeing a biting winter wind or shoveling mounds of snow, the last thing you may think about is how your pet can best deal with the challenges and threats of winter.

Within reason, most dogs and cats can deal fairly well with your local weather. Assuming they’re not exotic pets imported from a distant (and warmer) land, they’re likely to be relatively adept at handling your normal local winter.

Of course, some people do need a reminder that their shorthaired pets and others with unique limits may not do well with a walk on a zero-degree, or even a 32-degree day. If your furry friend might fit this category and you still want to get outside, you should consider a vest and even footwear provided it fits well. Be careful not to solve one problem only to create another by putting something on your pet that might cause he or she to trip or choke. Above all, don’t leave a pet outside in bitter cold weather without adequate shelter or, if the weather is very severe, don’t leave him or her out at all.

Other dangers are more obscure, although every year they sicken or kill a number of otherwise healthy pets. Chemicals are a big threat, and one of the most serious is antifreeze, which contains chemicals that can be fatal to a dog or cat in even small doses. Worse, some antifreeze products still have a sweet taste that can attract pets. With many motorists changing or adding antifreeze this time of year, there’s an increased chance of your pet licking some on a driveway or garage floor. Keep an eye peeled on walks and make sure you clean up any spills on your own property.

Another potential hazard involves de-icing chemicals used on roadways and sidewalks. While this won’t bother you with your shoes or boots, these chemicals could irritate or even injure a bare pet paw. Especially if the paw already has a small abrasion or wound, the pet could even absorb enough chemical to make it sick. Again, pet booties would be a solution, although simply inspecting and washing the pet’s feet after a walk might suffice.

You could get a warning of contaminated paws if your pet seems to be unusually focused on his or her paws—even licking or chewing them excessively during a walk. If it’s very cold, this could also indicate the onset of frostbite. Again, with your shoes or boots, this is something you aren’t likely to experience so be observant and consider booties, shorter walks or other solutions.

Some of these threats vary tremendously depending on your pet and where you live. With the above chemical issue, for example, you probably have little to fear in a rural or suburban location. In a city, especially a big city, the chemical issue might be widespread and require attention.

Rare but serious dangers do exist for suburban and rural dwellers. One involves attack by larger pets or predators. While this is a year-round concern, the danger can spike in rough weather if predators are having difficulty finding food. The most likely dangers involve coyotes, but other critters that could tangle with your cat or dog include raccoons, foxes, bobcats and cougars, and even a large owl or hawk.

There are also dangers inside your home. In fact, one threat might be part of keeping your home cozy: fireplaces and heaters. Any source of heat that hasn’t been part of your pet’s world year-round has a potential danger, especially if it involves intense heat like a fireplace or some heaters. This is something bird owners should be very aware of. Birds can be prone to drafts, but putting a space heater right under the birdcage would not be a good idea, either.

Again, most pet owners will likely avoid these potential problems, and some are quite rare. But a little caution can avoid a serious tragedy so help you and your pet enjoy the season.