A warmer winter for Colorado?  We’ll see… You may not realize, but the cold and wet weather combined with common household items we use during the winter months, can be dangerous for pets. Here are our top 5 winter hazards for pets that you should know about to keep them safe, happy and healthy this winter season:

1. Antifreeze (Ethylene Glycol)
Cats and dogs are attracted to the sweet smell and taste of antifreeze, and will often sample some if left out in a container or spilled on the garage floor.

Antifreeze is highly toxic – it is rapidly absorbed and there is a high mortality rate with even a small amount of ingestion. Initial onset of symptoms can be within 30 minutes to an hour of ingestion and initially it looks like your animal is intoxicated on alcohol. Then stumbling, vomiting and depression set in as the kidneys become affected. Kidney failure can lead to death often within 12-24 hours after ingestion in cats, and 36-72 hours post-ingestion in dogs. Prognosis is dependent upon quick treatment. If you suspect that your animal has come into contact with antifreeze, contact your veterinarian immediately.

There is a product called Ethylene Glycol antifreeze that is marketed as a safe alternative; however, recent studies have indicated toxicity in cats. It is still advisable to keep these products away from your pet; it is worth the peace of mind.

2. Arthritis and Winter
Cold weather aggravates arthritis in dogs and cats. Arthritis can appear in young pets, but is most common in middle age and geriatric pets. A fracture can also make the bone susceptible to arthritis after the injury is healed. Overweight pets suffer from arthritis more than their normal-weight counterparts.

If your pet is having trouble getting up or laying down, navigating the stairs, or has started to snap or cry when picked up, a visit to the veterinarian is in order. Many new arthritis treatments are available.

3. Ice Melt
Avoid using rock salt or salt-based product to melt ice and snow and try something pet-friendly such as Safe Paw.  While rare, ingestion of rock salt may cause medical problems for your pet if licked off their paws.

4. Freezing Temperatures
If it is cold outdoors for you, then it is probably cold for your pet. Limit their outdoor exposure to no more than 10 minutes at a time when temperatures drop below freezing. Walking outside in sub-zero temperatures can also burn the pads of their feet and/or cause frostbite.

If your pet is housed outside, make sure that adequate shelter is provided to shield from all three elements: wind, moisture and cold. Take extra care to ensure that your pet is comfortable and can get in to and out of their housing easily. You should consider buying safe heated floor mats or non-electric warm bedding. Deeply bedded straw is another good insulator. Do not use a heat lamp or other type of home heater – this is dangerous, and is the cause of many fires. You can purchase a heated water bowl to keep your pet’s water from freezing as it is still important to provide fresh water.

5. Trapped in Warm Enclosures
Remember if left out too long, your pet, especially cats, will find warm spots outdoors, including your dryer vent (put a screen on it) and your car’s engine (make sure you know where your pet is before you warm up your car and drive away).

For more information about our emergency team, our patients and other emergency topics, please visit our Emergency Care Department or Related Articles.