Winter’s chilly days are here. Whether your pet loves the cold and snow or refuses to step outside when the temperature drops below their liking, harsh weather poses major health risks for your furry friend. From chapped paws and flaking skin to frostbite and hypothermia, you must know how to protect your pet from the potential dangers. Our Town & Country Animal Hospital team shares hot tips to protect your pet from the cold. 

#1: Know hypothermia signs in pets

Your pet is suffering with hypothermia when their body temperature falls below normal level—approximately 100 to 102.5 degrees—because of prolonged exposure to cold temperatures. Hypothermia signs can range from mild to severe, and may include:

  • Shivering
  • Lethargy
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Difficulty walking
  • Stumbling, or lack of coordination
  • Pale or gray gums
  • Confusion
  • Cool to the touch

While hypothermia can affect any pet type, certain types are less able to thermoregulate, which puts them at a greater risk of becoming hypothermic if they are left outside too long in cold or wet conditions. Pets more likely to develop hypothermia include:

  • Senior pets 
  • Small-breed dogs
  • Short-haired pets
  • Kittens or puppies
  • Pets with heart, endocrine, or metabolic conditions

Hypothermia can be life-threatening without immediate treatment. If your pet becomes hypothermic, warm them by taking them indoors, drying them off, and wrapping them in warm towels from the dryer. Then, contact our Town and Country Animal Hospital team for guidance and support. 

Hypothermia prevention tips

When heading outside with your pet, take the following steps to keep them warm and dry and their body temperature normal:

  • Put a waterproof coat on your pet.
  • Avoid walking through melting ice and slush.
  • Walk in areas sheltered from strong winds.
  • Watch for discomfort signs in your pet.

#2: Protect your pet from frostbite

Like their owners, pets are susceptible to frostbite from prolonged exposure to frigid temperatures—especially below 32 degrees. Frostbite occurs when blood vessels constrict to redirect blood from the extremities to vital organs, including the brain, lungs, and heart, for warmth and protection. Frostbite is rarely fatal, but is often a precursor to hypothermia. Frostbite signs include:

  • Discoloration of the affected skin area
  • Coldness and/or brittleness of the affected area when touched
  • Painful ears, tail, paws, or nose when touched
  • Ice crystals in or around the nose
  • Blisters or skin ulcers
  • Swelling of the affected area

If your pet has frostbite signs, immediately take them inside, cover them with a dry, warm blanket or towel, and contact our team for guidance. 

Frostbite prevention tips

Frostbite most commonly affects a pet’s tail, nose, and ears, so protecting these extremities can minimize your pet’s risk. 

  • Ensure your pet is dry before taking them outside. 
  • Dress your pet in a warm jacket and protective booties.
  • Keep outings quick to avoid prolonged exposure.

#3: Keep deadly antifreeze away from pets

Antifreeze products often contain ethylene glycol, which is a sweet-tasting, odorless liquid that many pets find attractive, but which is extremely toxic to dogs and cats. Poisoning commonly occurs in pets who:

  • Ingest leaked radiator fluid 
  • Drink from a toilet in a home with winterized pipes
  • Lick up leaks or spills in the driveway or garage

Small amounts are extremely dangerous—one teaspoon can be lethal to cats, and one to two tablespoons to dogs. Cats can also become poisoned if they get ethylene glycol on their skin or paws. Antifreeze toxicity signs in pets may include:

  • Wobbly or uncoordinated movement
  • Increased heart rate
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Dehydration
  • Tremors
  • Anorexia
  • Fainting 
  • Low body temperature
  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Excess salivation
  • Seizures
  • Mouth ulcers or sores
  • Coma

Antifreeze poisoning is serious and can be deadly. Contact your veterinarian immediately if you know or suspect that your pet has ingested antifreeze, which is rapidly absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract.

Antifreeze poisoning prevention tips:

Most pets become poisoned when they lick antifreeze that has leaked from a vehicle onto the ground or the garage floor, so ensure you regularly check around your car and keep pets away from parked vehicles. Store unused antifreeze securely out of pets’ reach. 

Winter weather doesn’t have to ruin your pet’s fun if you use our tips and always monitor your pet in the cold weather. Also, ensure your pet is healthy enough to tolerate the chilly winter conditionsschedule their annual wellness visit with our Town & Country Animal Hospital team now.