Protect Your Pet from Winter Weather Dangers

The Chicago metropolitan area was inundated by the Blizzard of 2011 not more than three years ago. And just last winter, pet owners throughout the area experienced below zero Fahrenheit temperatures that hadn’t been seen in the past 18 years.  The Chicago area achieved a new record of -15 degrees below zero Fahrenheit with dangerous -40 degrees below zero Fahrenheit wind chills. The 2014-2015  winter may seem mild compared to last years arctic vortex, but the cold is not to be taken lightly as standard winter temps still pose a big threat to your little furry friend.

The cold conditions combined with dangerous wind chills create challenges especially for pet owners. Steps taken by pet owners can help to keep pets safe from the cold weather and prevent serious health threats.

Even if your cat is considered an outside cat for the most part, the best and most sensible action is to keep cats indoors and out of the elements during this time of year.  Consider to provide a proper, balanced diet and ensure that they are in good health. There are many tragic stories of cat deaths each year from being outdoors. One such possibility of this in the cold winter months is when a cat may seek warmth under the hood of a car near the warm engine. Unaware of the dangers there, once the car is started, if the cat hasn’t gotten out, it is too late for them. Cats tend to keep their illnesses a secret as a survival tactic which means that it is important for you to watch your cat for any early signs of illness. Take your cat to the vet for regular physical examinations to detect any potential health problems early on, so that they can be addressed and treated before becoming threatening to your cat’s health, happiness, and quality of life.

Dogs are a different story. While cats may be more vulnerable to the cold, being unattended, dogs are often outdoors for walks and exercise with their owners. The cold weather can be a danger for them, as it is for humans. Dogs will become acclimated to the colder weather but still need your protection. Short haired and smaller dogs can benefit from a coat when outdoors. This does not mean that it is okay to leave your dog outdoors for long periods or unattended on a leash or in the yard. Keep an eye on your pet and when they are done doing their duty, be sure to let them in promptly.

If you want to take your dog jogging with you, be sure the dog is properly conditioned by taking your dog out for runs with you and gradually increasing the amount of time he is out.  Ice, particularly thin ice that cracks under foot, can cut your pet’s paws and snow packed between the pads of the feet can lead to frost bite. Your pet’s paws can also be harmed by salt or ice melting products. Thoroughly rinse their paws after returning from a walk outside. Little booties are even available for those who find that their pet needs some extra protection.

Former Chicago Veterinary Medical Association President Dr. Alexis Newman informs us, “In general, if its too cold for you to be outside comfortably, then the same holds true for your dog. Most can tolerate short periods of exposure to cold, but must be monitored closely. If they are having difficulty walking or breathing, they should be brought inside and warmed. Injuries from exposure to cold are easily prevented.”

Some simple steps can save your pets life in the event that he goes missing. CVMA Public Education Committee member Dr. Fred Goldenson advises, “Be prepared if your pet gets out and becomes lost. Have recent pictures ready to post in the neighborhood and to give to animal control and shelters, so that your pet will be reunited with you as quickly as possible.  Be sure your pet has a tag on its collar with your current contact information. A rabies tag alone does not help much if your pet is found after office hours at animal control.”

One of the most successful ways to keep track of your pet is to get a microchip for your dog or cat from your veterinarian. If your pet does have a microchip, be certain that the contact information that is on file is current and updated after moving or a change of phone number. This is particularly helpful if you are traveling with your pet. Remarkably, some pets have been reunited with their owners from across the country because of the microchip linking them to their owner.

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