Each season brings unique types of fun, from sunny summer hikes with your pet to snowy romps in the woods. In addition to beautiful landscapes and photo ops, winter can present many hazards for your furry family member. One of our favorite patients, Chico the Chihuahua, is taking over the blog this month to help ensure your pet stays safe and healthy this winter.

Hi pet moms and dads,

I want to chat with you about something very important—winter safety! As much as I love frolicking in the snow and cuddling by the fire, hidden dangers lurk in the wintery wonderland that you should be aware of. So, grab a warm blanket, and a cup of cocoa, and listen closely as I share my furry wisdom on how to keep your pet safe and snug during the chilly months.

Cold weather and hypothermia

The cold can be brutal for us furry companions. When you see your pet shivering, they may not only be chilly—it could be a sign of hypothermia. When the temperature dips, it’s important to limit your pet’s time outdoors, especially if it’s windy. Quick potty breaks are OK, but bring your pet back in quickly so they can warm up. Exercise is important through the winter, but time your walks for the warmest part of the day and skip extra cold days.  

Small pets like me can also benefit from a cozy sweater or coat when they venture outside. The extra layer of insulation will help keep us warm and provide adorable photo opportunities.  And please, never leave your pet alone in a cold car—it can become an icy trap in no time.

Ice melt products

Now, about those icy sidewalks—I know that salting the sidewalk can prevent a dangerous fall, but did you know that ice melt products can be dangerous for pets? The salty slush can irritate and dry out our sensitive paw pads. Even worse, salt can cause toxicity if you have a pet, like my brother Frankie (he’s a Lab and will eat anything) that is likely to get into the bag or lick salt crystals from their paws. 

Use these tips to protect your pet from ice melt products:

  • Look for pet-safe alternatives to rock salt.
  • Store all chemicals where your pet cannot reach them. 
  • Train your pet to wear boots that will protect their feet.
  • Apply paw wax to your pet’s paws before each walk.
  • Rinse your pet’s feet after walks to remove harmful chemicals.

Antifreeze toxicity

Sadly, many pets die each year from antifreeze toxicity because their parents don’t know the chemical is dangerous. Antifreeze made with ethylene glycol tastes sweet, so pets lick up any liquid that may be spilled or leak from your car. Unfortunately, even a small amount of ethylene glycol can lead to kidney failure that quickly becomes fatal without immediate treatment. Antifreeze should be stored safely out of your pet’s reach and all spills must be cleaned up immediately to prevent your pet, or other neighborhood pets, from ingesting the toxic liquid.

Slips and falls

I’m only four years old, so I’m still a pretty spry pup, but some of my older friends are afraid to walk on icy porches, patios, and sidewalks because they could slip and fall. Any pet could slip on the ice, but falls are particularly dangerous for grey-muzzled pets. When snow and ice cover the ground, don’t forget to shovel a path so your four-legged family members can get to their favorite potty spots safely. 

Car engines

You know the cat your dog barks at through the window? Unfortunately, some pets don’t have homes and are forced to seek places to keep warm through the winter months. Your warm car engine may seem like the perfect spot for a homeless cat to take a cozy nap—until you start your car and the engine roars to life. If you see homeless cats in your neighborhood, be kind and knock on your car’s hood before starting the engine to prevent a deadly injury.

Winter can be a magical time to create heartwarming memories with your pet. Take Chico’s advice to embrace the season’s beauty while keeping your pet warm, happy, and healthy. Schedule an appointment with our Burlington Veterinary Center team if your pet develops a winter-related problem, or is due for their annual wellness visit.