Winter is here! While we usually have fairly mild winters here in the south, they are predicting an exceptionally cold one this 2013-2014 season. Here are a few safety tips to consider when heading outdoors with your pets.
1. If it’s too cold for people to be outside, then it’s too cold for your pets to be outside. Don’t leave your pets outside unsupervised for long periods of time. Just because your pet has fur, it doesn’t mean he can withstand the cold.
2. Monitor your pet's outdoor activity. When taking pets outside for exercise or play only allow them to play for short periods of time. Pets can quickly become cold. Small dogs or those with little to no hair should have sweaters or jackets for protection against the cold.
3. If your dog is in the cold and begins excessively shaking or shivering, get him back to warm shelter as soon as possible. If you suspect your dog is developing hypothermia, bring him to a vet immediately. Symptoms of hypothermia depend on the severity but can include shivering, a slow shallow breathing, weakness, muscle stiffness, low blood pressure, a blank stare, fixed and dilated pupils, a heartbeat that’s hard to find and difficulty breathing.
4. Watch those feet! Salt on the roads and sidewalks can harm your pet. After a walk, wipe the pads of your dog's paws to keep the salt from irritating them and to minimize the risk of your dog eating the salt and becoming ill.
5. Avoid letting your dog eat snow or anything else on the ground. Dangerous objects or chemicals may be hidden in the snow. Also, eating snow can cause stomach upset and even hypothermia. Keep fresh, room temperature water available at all times.
6. Beware of antifreeze -- It is highly toxic! Antifreeze tastes good to pets, but even a small amount can kill your dog or cat. Though exposure to antifreeze is a risk all year, the risk is especially high during the colder months. Keep your eyes on your dog at all times - and keep antifreeze out of reach. If you suspect your dog has had ANY exposure to antifreeze, get to a vet right away.
7. If you use an indoor or outdoor fireplace, always keep a safety guard around it in order to protect your pet from the flames and soot. Do not leave a fire unattended.
8. Bang on the hood of your car before you start the engine. During the winter, cats sometimes sleep under the hoods or in the wheel wells of cars for warmth and protection. A car's fan belt can kill or injure an animal when the motor starts.
Be safe out there & have a happy winter season!