Cold and dry air, chilling rain, and possible snow and ice can have your layering up trying to stay warm throughout the month. December is also the height of the holiday season, but it can easily become a not-so-jolly holiday for pets. However, as pet owners we know that when you are preparing yourself for the holidays and winter weather, you are also making sure your pet is ready too! To help you out this season, we’ve put together a few cold weather and holiday tips to keep you and your pet holly-jolly this December.
Cold Weather Safety Advice
Schedule a wellness exam this winter as it can be a great time to get your pet checked out so they are ready for the cold. Older pets, young ones, and those with compromised immune systems may need extra care during the winter. Pets with arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, and other conditions are more susceptible to the cold and may develop problems or have difficulty keeping a healthy body temperature. During your wellness exam, ask your veterinarian about how best to care for your pet this season. Remember that even though the weather has gotten colder, it is important to continue taking preventive care for fleas, heartworm, and ticks.
Just like people, an animal’s cold tolerance varies from pet to pet based on his or her body fat, activity level, health, skin type, and even personality. Be aware of your pet’s tolerance and adjust accordingly.
- Jackets– As you go out with your pet and grab your coat, grab a sweater, jacket, or vest for your pet too! If you think you will be cold, your pet will most likely be too, even if they have a long or thick coat. Outerwear should cover from the base of the tail to the belly and up to the neck to be effective at keeping your pet warm. Be sure that the clothing does not impede your pet’s ability to see, move, breathe, or eat/drink.
- Booties– You should also consider booties or protective covering for your pet’s paws when going outdoors. Not only will these booties help reduce your pet’s likelihood of developing cold-weather injuries, but they also serve as protection from harmful chemical agents used during this time of year. Many cities use ice-melting agents to clear roads and sidewalks that are harmful to pets if they lick them off their paws. Protective paw gear will help keep ice, snow, gravel, salt, and other agents from getting between your pet’s toes. Always check your pet’s paws once your return inside (even if they have booties) for signs of cold weather damage such as cracked or bleeding paws.
- Walks outdoors– Plan for outdoor walks. Ensure your dog is protected from the elements just as you are. Wear reflective gear or carry a flashlight if you will be out while it is dark. Avoid frozen water in all forms as you do not know if the ice will support the weight of your pet or how deep the water may be beneath the ice.
- Shelter– Though we do not recommend allowing your pet to stay outside for long periods of time, if you are unable to keep them indoors be sure to provide your pet with a solid shelter. The floor should be off the ground and you should provide thick and dry bedding to give them a warm environment. Do not use heat lamps, heated blankets, or space heaters as you run the risk of burns and fires with your pet. Always ensure that your pet has access to fresh, non-frozen water.
- Wipe down and dry off– It is good practice to wipe down your pet’s belly, legs, and feet after every outing as he or she may have come in contact with chemicals or agents that could be toxic. Your pet may lick his or her feet or fur and ingest the toxic causing complications. Be sure to towel your pet off as well to prevent catching a chill after returning from the outdoors.
- Heater safety– Your pet will most likely be spending more time indoors during the season and space heaters are a common way to keep a household warm. Exercise caution with heaters as pets can easily bump into a heater and get burned or knock it over and start a fire.
- Keep pet bedding warm– Move your pet’s bedding away from any doors, windows, or areas where they may come in contact with outside drafts. Provide your pet with extra blankets or pieces of cloth for added warmth.
- Make some noise– During this time of year, a warm vehicle can be an appealing shelter to feral animals. Cats often crawl under the hoods of cars to escape from the cold. Please check underneath the car, bang on the hood, make noise, or honk your horn before starting the engine to startle away any hitchhikers.
Holiday Safety Tips
The holiday season is here, and many pet parents want to include their animal companions in the festivities. As you prepare your home for the holidays, it is important to keep your pets in mind as well.
Regardless of whether your tree is live or artificial, be sure to securely anchor your tree so it does not tip or fall. Prevent your pet from drinking tree water by covering the water dish as it may contain chemicals or fertilizers for preserving your tree which may be toxic to your pet. Curious pets might bite at one or two tree limbs and become irritated by the tree oils, leading to vomiting, drooling, and swelling of the mouth. They may also swallow needles which can bunch together causing an intestinal obstruction which can lead to severe consequences.
Mistletoe, balsam, pine, cedar, holly, poinsettias, and lilies are all holiday plants that can cause gastrointestinal problems to your pets. Some plants may even cause organ failure or heart problems when ingested. Choosing artificial plants made of silk or plastic may be a safer choice, but keep them away from pets as they might look like an interesting chew toy.
The sparkly lights, brightly colored garlands, flashy tinsel, gorgeous dangling ornaments, and tempting candy canes are all apart of getting into the holiday season. However, they can be intriguingly dangerous decorations to your pet. Keep breakable decorations out of reach and be mindful that tinsel and garlands may be eye-catching toys for pets. If swallowed, these decorations can lead to obstructions in the digestive tract, tears in the stomach, vomiting, and dehydration.
Keep wires and battery packs out of your pet’s reach. Wires can deliver a potentially lethal shock to your pet causing burns to the mouth or esophagus.
Skip the sweets as chocolate is highly toxic to both dogs and cats. Though the damage varies based on the type of chocolate, the weight of your pet, and the amount consumed, it is best to avoid all chances by removing chocolate from your pet’s reach. The same can be said for baked goods, candies, and other sweets that may contain xylitol, a harmful sweetener to pets. Instead, give your pet made-for-pet treats to make them feel included in the holiday fun.
Leftovers of human food should not be given to pets as human foods tend to be too rich, fatty, and high in calories for pets and can lead to life-threatening conditions such as pancreatitis.
Visitors can upset even the most social of pets and the noise and excitement of the holidays can cause your pet a lot of stress. Follow these tips to reduce emotional stress on your pet.
- Provide your pet with a comfortable and quiet place away from all the hustle and bustle.
- Inform your guests ahead of time that you have pets as guests with allergies or compromised immune systems need to be aware of pets in your home so they can make any needed precautions to protect themselves.
- Watch for exits as your pet may try to escape from an open door. That being said, the holidays are always a good time to update identification tags and microchip data. These will help you quickly reunite with your pet if they do decide to sneak away from the party.
- Dispose of trash properly and out of reach of pets.
- New year noise may cause stress and terrify your pet. Remember that many animals are afraid of fireworks so be sure to secure them in a safe escape-proof area as midnight approaches during the new year.
If you are traveling internationally or through interstates, many require that you carry a health certificate for your pet even if you are driving. Learn the requirements of any states or countries you will pass through or visit and speak with your vet ahead of time about obtaining the proper documentation for travel. Pack for your pet as well as yourself. Include food, medication, and health records in case your pet may need care during the holidays.
Pets in cars should safely be restrained with harnesses or carriers clear of airbags and never left unattended in a car.
If you are boarding your pet, ask your veterinarian how best to protect your pet from canine flu, kennel cough, and other boarding illnesses.
Winter can be a wonderful time to enjoy with your pet. The holiday season can be a stressful time for humans and non-humans alike, so we hope our tips and advice will help keep both you and your pet happy and safe this winter. Remember, if you believe your pet may have been poisoned or eaten something they shouldn’t have, contact your veterinarian right away or call the ASPCA Poison Control Hotline: 1-888-426-4435.
For more information on how to keep your pet happy and safe this holiday, contact Veterinary Emergency & Critical Care today.