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Cold weather safety

November 1, 2017

As the weather turns colder across British Columbia, the BC SPCA is reminding pet guardians that it’s important to think of your furry family members during the chilliest months of the year.

When walking the dog, pet guardians might want to watch for the salt or sand used to make driving and walking safer for humans.

“When your dog is walking in it, those materials could get between his paw pads or his toes, and you don’t want him to lick or ingest any of that,” notes BC SPCA manager of animal welfare Kim Monteith.

Sad dog lying down outdoors in the snow“Don’t forget to both dry your pet’s paw pads after being outside as well as clean between his toes and pads,” she adds.

It’s also important to go slowly and carefully when conditions are icy or slippery, because – like humans – your canine companion can slip and injure himself.

If temperatures are extremely cold, pet guardians may want to think about getting their dog a winter jacket or covering, or even dog shoes/booties to wear to help protect his paws, says Monteith.

“They may have fur coats but some aren’t very thick – dogs get cold and can suffer from exposure to the cold just like us,” Monteith says.

Think and thump before you drive

There’s another important step people can take, whether they have pets or not: think and thump before driving.

When it’s cold outside, cats and wildlife will often gravitate to warm vehicle engines, and by banging the hood to alert them, B.C. drivers can help avoid a tragic ending for an animal seeking refuge from the cold.

“It just takes two seconds – as the weather gets colder, animals look for warmth wherever they can find it,” says Monteith. “It’s one, simple act, and it’s a great idea to make ‘think and thump’ a habit every morning when it’s cold outside.”

Even though companion animals might come with their own fur coats, cold weather conditions can pose a serious risk to pets, Monteith notes.

“Extra caution should be taken to ensure that your pets stay warm, safe and healthy this winter.”

The BC SPCA is vehemently opposed to keeping dogs permanently outdoors, but it acknowledges that some pet guardians still house their dogs in this manner.

In these cases, the dog must have shelter that protects him from cold, wind and dampness that is appropriate to his weight and coat. To accomplish this, the shelter should be elevated, insulated, ventilated and regularly cleaned.

Pet care tips for fall/winter:

  • Make sure you thoroughly clean the pads of your pet’s paws after they’ve walked on sidewalks or roads to remove any coarse salt that can cause irritation. For your own sidewalk, choose a pet-friendly, non-corrosive de-icing compound readily available through retail outlets;
  • When winterizing your camping gear, ensure your pets are not hiding inside, as some equipment can exert intense pressure when being expanded or dismantled;
  • Use pet-safe propylene-based antifreeze instead of ethylene glycol antifreeze, which is toxic to pets and wildlife. A mere tablespoon of ethylene glycol antifreeze can kill a cat or small dog;
  • The SPCA strongly urges pet guardians to keep all animals indoors during cold weather, but if you must keep domestic or farm animals outside, ensure they have access to shelter that is off the ground, provides protection from wind, cold and dampness and is properly insulated. Regular checks to ensure drinking water has not frozen over are also a must.

Tabby cat and woman lying down on the couch giving kitty kissesCompanion pets are not the only animals at risk in cold weather. People with farm animals must also make sure these animals have adequate cover from the elements and that all water containers are kept ice-free.

“When the temperature drops outside, we need to take extra care with our pets,” says Monteith. “Ideally, we should keep our pets indoors with us where they are warm and safe and where we can enjoy their companionship throughout the winter.”

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