This section is brought you by the Jacksonville Fire Department’s very own “Smokey” the dog!
I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! And although we have had some very cold weather already, typically the coldest weather comes in January. Here are some safety tips to keep your pets safe in the cold weather:
- Have they had their check up at their veterinarian? I did just a couple of months ago with Dr. Hudson. Your pet could have an underlying problem that could be exacerbated by the colder weather.
- All pets have different tolerances to the cold weather depending on their size, thickness of their coat, how much fat they store and their activity level. So make sure that you know their limits. You may have to shorten their walks or outside play time depending on the weather.
- Just like our owners, we like comfortable places to lay down depending on the weather, so please provide appropriate accommodations according to our needs. When it gets really cold, provide a place inside, sheltered from the elements. Pets are susceptible to frostbite just as humans are. No pet should be left outside for long periods of time in below freezing temperatures.
- Check your pets pads for damage from the ice and snow such as cracked paw pads and bleeding. You can also reduce iceball accumulations by clipping the hair between the toes.
- If your dog has a short coat, consider a sweater or dog coat. Make sure the sweaters stay dry as wet clothes can actually make a dog colder. Some pet owners use booties, but if you do, please make sure they fit properly.
- Many pets become lost in winter because snow and ice can hide recognizable scents that might normally help your pet find their way back home. Make sure your pet has a well-fitting collar with up-to-date identification and contact information.
- A microchip is a more permanent means of identification, but it’s critical that you keep the registration up to date.
- A warm vehicle engine can be an appealing heat source for outdoor cats. Check underneath your car, bang on the hood, and honk the horn before starting the engine to encourage the kitties to find a new place.
- If you need to run errands in cold weather, leave your pet at home. Hot vehicles pose a significant danger to pets, but below freezing ones do too.
- Clean up any antifreeze spills. Small amounts of antifreeze can be deadly. Make sure your pets don’t have access to medication bottles, household chemicals, potentially toxic foods such as onions, xylitol (a sugar substitute) and chocolate.
- Chances are your pet will be spending more time inside during the cold weather, so it’s a good time to make sure your house is properly pet-proofed. Use space heaters with caution around pets, because they can burn or they can be knocked over, potentially starting a fire. Check your furnace before the cold weather sets in to make sure it’s working efficiently, and test your carbon monoxide and smoke detectors to keep your entire family safe from harm.
- If your pet is whining, shivering, seems anxious, slows down or stops moving, seems weak, or starts looking for warm places to burrow, get them back inside quickly because they are showing signs of hypothermia. Frostbite is harder to detect, and may not be fully recognized until a few days after the damage is done. If you suspect your pet has hypothermia or frostbite, consult your veterinarian immediately.
- Keep your pet at a healthy weight throughout the cold weather. Some pet owners feel that a little extra weight gives their pet some extra protection from cold, but the health risks associated with that extra weight doesn’t make it worth doing. Watch your pet’s body condition and keep them in the healthy range. Outdoor pets will require more calories in the winter to generate enough body heat and energy to keep them warm – talk to your veterinarian about your pet’s nutritional needs during cold weather. Also be sure to make sure your pet has plenty of water instead of a chunk of ice. Believe it or not, it’s easy for us to become dehydrated during cold weather!
Everyone have a safe January! Woof!