Written by Brian Adam   
Thursday, 17 January 2019 10:17

With another DEEP FREEZE upon us, the OSPCA reminds all pet owners: Extreme cold can be severely harmful to pets. Even the furriest will feel the bite of winter's chill.  Outdoor dogs must be provided adequate shelter and a constant supply of fresh water. They require a dry, draft-free doghouse, soundly-built of weatherproof materials with a door facing away from prevailing winds. It should be elevated and insulated, have a door flap and bedding of straw or wood shavings.

Check your pet's water and food frequently to ensure it's not frozen and use a tip-resistant plastic or ceramic bowl, rather than metal, to prevent your dog's tongue sticking to the cold metal surface. There are also heated and/or insulated bowls available that prevent water from freezing.

Use a damp towel to wipe your pet's paws and underside after being outside. Salt and other chemicals used to melt snow and ice on roads and sidewalks can irritate and burn your pet's sensitive paws - and can cause injury if ingested. Also, remove ice balls by placing your pet's feet in warm (not hot) water before drying them off with a towel. Consider using "booties" to protect your pet's paws.

Avoid car hazards
Never leave your cat or dog alone in a car during cold weather. Cars hold in the cold, acting like refrigerators, which could cause your dog to freeze to death. Also be aware of cats seeking warmth under vehicle hoods. When the vehicle motor is started, the cat can be injured or killed by the fan belt. Make a point of knocking on the hood or sounding the horn before starting the engine. This will warn away any cats who may be hiding in your vehicle.

Another danger for pets this time of year is ethylene glycol, which is found in antifreeze and brake fluids and is deadly to all animals. It tastes sweet, so animals may ingest it; a very small amount can be fatal. Emergency veterinary care is essential. Always clean up any spills and dispose of the rags as hazardous waste. Be alert for antifreeze when out on walks.

Take precautions
Don't let your dog off leash on ice or snow, especially during a snowstorm, as dogs can lose their scent and easily become lost. Ensure they always have a warm place to sleep away from drafts and off the floor. A thick cozy dog or cat bed with a blanket or pillow is great. “If your dog spends lots of time outside during the other seasons, be sure to give them lots of mental activity if the weather prevents typical exercise.” Says Andrew Fraser, Provincial Education & Animal Centre Manager ‘Special chew toys, games of fetch, or “brain games” for your pet will keep them mentally busy.”  So to recap:

  1. Frostbite is your dog's top winter hazard. To prevent frostbite on its ears, tail & feet, don't leave them out for long periods of time.  Be attentive to their body temperature, especially during EXTREME WEATHER.
  2. Adequate shelter is a necessity. Keep your dog warm, dry and away from drafts. Tiles & uncarpeted areas may become extremely cold, so make sure to place blankets and pads on floors in these areas.
  3. Be extra careful when walking or playing with your dog near frozen lakes, rivers or ponds, as they could slip or jump in and be seriously injured.
  4. Groom your dog regularly.  A well-groomed coat will help keep them properly insulated. Short-or coarse-haired dogs may get extra cold; so consider a sweater or coat. Long-haired dogs should have excess hair around the toes and foot pads trimmed to ease snow removal & cleaning. When trimming, take care not to cut the pads or other delicate areas of the foot.
  5. Feed  them additional calories, if they do spend alot of time outdoors or are a working animal. It takes more energy in the winter to keep body temperature regulated, so additional calories are necessary.
  6. Towel or blow-dry your dog if it gets wet from rain or snow. It's important to also dry & clean its paws - as this helps avoid cut or cracked pads. Some petroleum jelly may soften the pads and prevent further cracking.

VERY IMPORTANT:  At no time should you leave your dog alone in a car, without proper precautions.  If the car engine is left on, carbon monoxide could endanger its' life.  If the engine is off, the inside temperature will get TOO COLD for them.  No one likes to be uncomfortable, especially older dogs, prone to arthritis.

It's important to pay special attention to their well-being during these months.  Remember the following health concerns:

  1. ANTI-FREEZE is highly poisonous. Although it smells & tastes good to dogs, it's lethal.
  2. ROCK SALT may irritate footpads. Be sure to rinse & dry your dog's feet after a walk.

SNOW is not a substitute for FRESH WATER.  So make sure their bowls are re-filled regularly.  Heated/Outdoor water bowls also help keep it from freezing.  Your dog is just as likely to get dehydrated now, as in summer. Snow is no substitute. Like people, dogs seem to be more susceptible to illness in the winter. Watch for any symptoms; do not use over-the-counter medications on your dog without consulting your vet.

Lastly: Be very careful of supplemental heat sources. Fireplaces & portable heaters can severely burn them. Make sure fireplaces have screens & keep heaters out of reach.