Just like the people here in Rockford, Michigan, some pets enjoy the cold weather and some do not. Generally, most cats and short haired dogs don’t like winter while a lot of long haired dogs do, especially if they are “northern breeds” like Huskies, Akitas, and Saint Bernards. In my last blog, I talked about shelter, feeding and exercising your cat and dog in the winter. This time I’d like to touch on some safety issues that are unique to this season.

Many people use salt on their driveways and sidewalks to keep them ice-free. These products can be irritating to your dog and cat’s feet and toxic if swallowed. Always use salt products labeled “pet safe”. They are available at most stores. While we are on the subject of slippery surfaces, be careful when taking your dog for walks or off-leash play when it’s icy outside. They can slip and fall causing a broken bone, dislocated joint or torn ligament.

Another problem for long haired dogs and cats in the winter is ice balls forming in the hair between the toe pads. These balls act just like a stone in your shoe. They can lead to pain, lameness and sores on the feet. The best way to prevent them is to have the groomer use clippers to shave the hair down on the feet and between the toe pads.

The biggest danger in cold weather for dogs is antifreeze poisoning. Antifreeze tastes like a sweet treat to a dog and ingesting a small amount is quickly deadly for their kidney. If you are filling up your car’s windshield fluid, take care to wipe up spills. Also, watch out for engine damage that causes antifreeze to leak out of your car. If you see your dog or, less often, your cat licking antifreeze, take them immediately to an emergency hospital for animals. There is an antidote for this poison that can save their life if it is given early enough.

A unique danger in winter for cats is trauma from car engines. What happens is someone parks their car after driving and the engine is nice and hot. Outdoor cats will climb up onto the engine to get warm. Unfortunately, if someone comes out and starts the car up with the cat still inside, the cat can get its legs or tail caught in the engine belts and it can break or amputate the part off. Many cats have died tragically this way. To prevent this from happening, thump the hood of your car with your hand before starting the engine. The cat will jump down and avoid injury.

If you want to learn more about any of these topics, check out the library of articles on our website.

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