With winter in full swing, the BC SPCA offers several tips to keep our furry friends safe in winter.
One is to watch out for salt and sand used to reduce slippery conditions on sidewalks. When it gets between a dog’s paw pads or toes, it can cause irritation and even dermatitis. The salt can also be harmful if licked off and ingested. A dog’s paws should be wiped off once they come in from outside.
Also, be aware of antifreeze spills and don’t let pets near the toxic substance. Make sure you’re using pet-safe antifreeze made with propylene instead of ethylene, which smells sweet and attracts animals but can kill them in very small doses.
Even with a layer of fur, pets can suffer from cold exposure. Dogs and cats are especially vulnerable on their paws and the tips of their ears, so only allow animals outside for a very short time in extreme cold.
Pet clothing and jackets are not just for fashion and are recommended to help mitigate the cold. Boots to protect cold paws are also suggested.
Warning signs of frostbite in pets include pale grey or blue-ish skin, pain or swelling on a body part, skin that is cold, brittle or painful to the touch, blisters or skin ulcers and areas of blackened or dead skin.
To treat frostbite, warm the affected areas in a bowl of lukewarm water, not dry heat like from a hair dryer. Pat the area dry and do not rub or massage the skin. Only warm the pet up if you are indoors and can keep the area warm, or else it may refreeze and cause more damage. Take your pet to a vet as soon as possible to ensure the pet’s comfort and determine if there is a need for medication.
Symptoms of hypothermia in pets can be shivering, pale or grey gums, lethargic movements and stumbling around or lack of coordination, and it can happen quickly.
“Just a few days ago we had a kitten who was brought in in critical condition from hypothermia,” said Meranda Dussault, manager of the Shuswap SPCA branch. “Luckily our vets were able to stabilize him and he is doing good and staying warm inside.”
Dussault also said it’s important to remember to ‘think and thump’ before driving your vehicle. Thump on the hood to scare out any animals that have crawled up under there to keep warm.
Any animals spending any prolonged time outside should be in good health, young and provided with a way to escape the cold at any time. There should be a temperature-regulated, raised enclosure available and owners should check for frozen water bowls often.