Winter Dangers for Pets

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With the hustle and bustle of the holidays, combined with severe weather conditions, wintertime can be a dangerous season for your pets. Keep your four-footed friends safe and healthy by winterizing your home with an eye for pet hazards.

Cold Weather Dangers

Just because your pets have fur coats doesn’t mean they are immune to freezing weather and accompanying hazards.

  • In severe weather, your animals should be inside the house, or at least a protected and heated garage, barn or shed.
  • When it’s cold, make sure your dog has a doghouse that is large enough to fit him comfortably, but small enough to hold in body heat. A blanket or towel on the floor will help increase the warmth.
  • Dogs with very thin coats, such as Chihuahuas, Dalmatians and whippets, very small dogs and elderly dogs should wear a sweater or jacket when being walked in wintertime.
  • If your dog is outside in freezing weather, give him water in a plastic bowl. Metal bowls can freeze to your pet’s tongue, causing painful injury.
  • Inspect your dog’s feet after a walk in snow or ice. Balls of ice can form between the pads, leading to frostbite. Wipe any ice off your pet’s fur and feet right after coming inside.
  • If salt or other chemicals are used to melt snow in your area, your dog or cat can be poisoned by licking their paws after walking on the road. Rinse your pet’s feet to remove chemical or salt residue.
  • Watch for antifreeze spills underneath your car. Both cats and dogs are attracted to the sweet taste, and it doesn’t take much to kill your pet.
  • Cats sometimes crawl up into a parked car’s engine compartment, looking to curl up in the warmth. This can spell disaster if you start the car without knowing the cat is there. Give your horn a tap, or lightly rap on the hood before starting your car.
  • Cold weather can cause arthritis flare-ups in elderly pets. If you see your cat or dog limping, avoiding movement or showing signs of joint pain, keep the animal inside where it’s warm.
  • Make sure your dog cannot get out of your yard after a snowfall. Dogs can become lost if they wander away in the snow, and then cannot find the scent trail to get home.
  • Cold air is often dry air. Just like humans, animals can develop dry, itchy skin in the winter. You might see your cat or dog scratching or biting at their skin, observe dandruff or even sores. Brush your pet regularly, and consider adding a fatty acid supplement to your pet’s food during the dry winter months.

Winter Dangers for Pets |

Holiday Dangers

Christmas, Hanukkah and New Years are all wonderful winter holidays for people to enjoy, but can present special dangers to pets.

  • If you are having a party or open house, keep your animals confined in a back bedroom or other secured area. A cat or dog can easily slip out the open front door and become lost. This is especially true on New Year’s Eve, when horns, noisemakers, fireworks or guns can terrify pets with the loud sounds.
  • A curious cat or dog can tip over a Christmas tree. Keep a close eye on your pet, or use a baby gate to block the pet’s access to the tree.
  • Cats are often attracted to tinsel, but the sharp edges can severely damage their digestive system, and cause obstruction. Keep tinsel strands out of your home if you have a cat.
  • Place glass ornaments up high, out of the reach of swiping paws or investigative noses.
  • Many pets like to drink out of the Christmas tree water bowl, but this can lead to digestive upset, especially if preservatives are in the water.
  • Make sure Kitty isn’t nibbling on holiday plants decorating your home. Many are poisonous, especially holly, lilies and mistletoe.
  • The holidays mean rich foods like ham, turkey and duck. Your pets are just as interested in these foods as you are, but overindulging in fatty food can cause pancreatitis in dogs, which can be fatal. Be sure your pets cannot get into the trash, or steal food from the table.
  • Keep candy, especially chocolate, up high where your dog cannot reach it.
  • If you have wrapped food gifts, make sure they are not under the tree, or anywhere a pet can get at them. Dogs will rip through paper to get at food, and can swallow wrapping paper or ribbon.
  • Candles look festive, but are attractive and dangerous to pets, especially cats. The same is true of your fireplace. Never leave a pet unattended in a room with any type of flame.
  • Throw out wrapping paper and ribbon right after opening gifts. Cats like to play with ribbon, but can easily swallow a piece, which might lead to intestinal obstruction.

Wintertime is a cold but beautiful season, filled with wonderful holidays that bring family and friends together. Make sure your pets are safe during this season, and don’t forget to include a special gift just for them during your holiday celebration. After all, your cats and dogs are members of the family.

Last Updated: December 27, 2012
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About Michelle Ullman Michelle Ullman has lived and gardened in Southern California since childhood. A freelance writer, she covers topics ranging from gardening to home improvement to health issues. She also has experience as a catalog copywriter and poet. Michelle has trained and worked as a respiratory therapist and surgical technologist, but prefers to spend her time gardening, and walking with her dog. Michelle holds a Bachelor's Degree from Redlands University in Business Management. 

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