Dr. Ryan Ridgway & Dr. Lynn Smart
As of writing this, we have already had the first couple of snow falls of 2014. Thankfully, they didn’t last but it’s time to begin preparing for winter. Many pets die from hypothermia every winter in Canada but pet owners can help prevent that risk with the following tips.
- Winterize their outside house – All pets need an insulated shelter in winter. Often pet owners make a house that is too high, letting the heat escape above their pet. It should be just tall enough for them to stand comfortably in and full of warm bedding to curl up in.
- Heated water bowls – Cold water lowers your pet’s core temperature and can bring on hypothermia. Heated water bowls are a good way to prevent this while ensuring your pet remains hydrated if they are outside for a while.
- Coats and boots – Some breeds are just not designed for cold weather and don’t have enough fur to keep them warm, even when they are outside for short periods of time. For those pets, a warm coat can help keep them warm. Pets can get frostbite on their paws on cold days and ice can cut their feet. If your pet has tender feet in winter, there are different boots available to keep them happy.
- Secure your fence and gates – Many pets die of hypothermia because they get lost after escaping their yard. Lock any gates that are left unattended to prevent anyone from letting them out of your yard and ensure that there are no holes in the fence that your pet could escape from.
- Don’t leave them outside for prolonged times – This includes breeds that are designed for winter such as huskies. Regardless of their hair coat, they need to find shelter and warm up periodically.
- Let your pet prepare for winter – Indoor pets need time to grow hair and increase metabolism. If they are not allowed to experience the cooler temperatures of fall, they will not be prepared for the really cold temperatures of winter.
- Adjust your pet’s food for increased metabolism if required – Our pet’s metabolism increases to produce more heat in the winter, requiring more food than summer. The amount is dependant on the pet, temperature and time spent outside. Always monitor your pet’s body condition score to ensure that they are at an appropriate weight.
- Ensure they have reflective collars or flashing lights – During winter, roads are more slippery and we drive in the dark more often. The number of pets that die from being hit by vehicles increases during winter as drivers are less able to stop if a pet darts out.
The following are signs of hypothermia and that your pet requires treatment:
- Pale gums
- Frostbite on extremities
If you suspect your pet has hypothermia it is an emergency and requires the following immediately:
- Call your veterinarian and get your pet in for examination as soon as possible
- Heat blankets by a heat source such as on a heating vent, radiator or cloths drier and wrap the pet in it
- Wrap a hot water bottle or heating pad in a towel to prevent burns and hold it against the pet
- If you have no heat source and the pet is small enough, hold it inside your coat near your skin. If it is too large, get into the blanket with them. Caution must be taken though as you may be bitten if you don’t know the pet or it is nervous
- Monitor the pet’s temperature and remove heat sources when it’s temperature is between 37.5-38 degrees Celsius.
I hope everyone has a happy winter and your pets stay safe!