How to keep your pets safe in colder weather conditions - BC SPCA
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How to keep your pets safe in colder weather conditions

November 3, 2021

As temperatures begin to drop below freezing around the province, we are sharing our top tips on how to keep your pet safe in winter conditions.

Salt on sidewalks

Guardians should watch for the salt or sand used on sidewalks as it can get between your dog’s paw pads or toes. Pet guardians don’t want their furry friends licking or ingesting it during or after a walk. These products can irritate the mouth, paws and skin and can cause stomach upset and electrolyte imbalances if ingested.

  • Paw pads: Dry your pet’s paw pads after being outside and clean between their toes and pads.
  • Sidewalks: For your own sidewalk, choose a pet-friendly, non-corrosive de-icing compound readily available through retail outlets. It’s also important to walk slowly and carefully when conditions are icy or slippery because, like humans your canine companion can slip and injure themselves.
  • Stay inside: Consider fun activities inside if it’s too cold to be out and about with your dog.
  • Antifreeze beware: Use pet-safe, propylene glycol-based antifreeze instead of ethylene glycol-based antifreeze, which is toxic to wildlife and pets. A mere tablespoon of antifreeze made with ethylene glycol can kill a cat or small dog. There are great options for animal-friendly antifreeze that has anti-corrosive properties, is biodegradable and is recyclable. Learn more about antifreeze safety. 

Protection from frostbite

Dogs may have fur coats but some aren’t very thick. They get cold and can suffer from exposure just like humans. If temperatures are extremely cold, guardians may want to think about getting their dog a winter jacket or covering, or even dog shoes and/or booties to wear to help protect their paws.

Puppies and older dogs may find it more difficult to control their body temperature. Dogs with heart disease or diabetes are also at a greater risk of getting frostbite because these conditions reduce blood flow to their extremities. The cold can also aggravate existing health conditions such as arthritis in older dogs, who should be monitored closely or kept indoors.

Frostbite signs

  • They have pale grey or blueish skin
  • Pain and swelling in the area
  • The skin feels cold, brittle and may be painful
  • Blisters or skin ulcers
  • Areas of blackened or dead skin

Symptoms of hypothermia

  • Shivering
  • Pale or grey gums
  • Lethargy
  • Stumbling or lack of coordination

Treatment for frostbite

If you notice your dog’s paws, ears or tail are frostbitten it’s an early warning sign that they are at risk for developing hypothermia. Here are a few simple steps to help your canine companion recover.

  • Warm them up: Place your dog’s paws or other frostbitten areas in a bowl of warm water – test it with your hand first and make sure it’s warm to the touch but not too hot. Do not use dry heat, such as a hairdryer or heating pad on the dog. Pat the dog dry and make sure not to rub or massage the frostbitten area.
  • Take them to the vet: When the dog starts to warm up their frostbitten paws can become red and painful. Your local vet may give your dog pain medication to help keep your pet comfortable during the healing process. If the frostbite is more severe, the dog may require antibiotics to prevent a secondary bacterial skin infection.
  • Caution: Do not try to warm up the dog if you are not close to home unless you can keep the area warm. The area can refreeze and cause more damage.

Note: The BC SPCA strongly urges guardians to keep all animals indoors during cold weather. 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.

Think and Thump

When it’s cold outside, cats or wild animals will try to find warmer places to seek shelter. This could include vehicles, particularly those that are recently parked and still warm. A cat or raccoon could easily find a decent amount of space in your bumper! Using the tactic: Think and thump before you drive off can help animals escape without harm. Here’s how to apply this method:

  • Tap or lightly thump the hood of your car, allowing time for a four-legged friend to make their escape.
  • Wait a few moments after to listen for any noises of escape before entering and starting your car.
  • You’ve now ensured you don’t have a stowaway in your vehicle!