It’s important to be aware of these hazards so that you can keep your pets safe in wintertime. When it comes to cold weather, snow, and ice, there are many hazards to consider so that we can make choices in the moment with our pets safety in mind. There are also choices we can ahead of time to help prevent our pets from coming into contact with some of these winter hazards.
All Pet Voices may earn a commission from links included in this article.
Watch Out for These Pet-Related Winter Hazards
Cold weather and Pets
It is true that different pets adapt differently to cold weather. There are some dog breeds that are made for cold weather, like malamutes, huskies, and other breeds with thick coats. If you have a winter-loving dog, you probably struggle to get them to actually come inside during the cold winter months. And we know that struggle is real!
The same goes for cats. Breeds like the Maine Coon and Siberian cats are less likely to be immediately affected by the cold, but all cats can be susceptible to cold weather. Hypothermia is a real concern for all our pets.
A dog’s normal body temperature does vary by breed, but on average is 101℉ – 102.5℉. Cats also vary, but on average a cat’s body temperature is 100.4℉ – 102.5℉. This means that both dogs and cats are at risk of hypothermia when their body temperature drops below 100℉.
Pro-tip: Check your pet’s temperature on a monthly basis so you know their baseline. It will help you know if they are running hot or cold based on their own history.
The safest bet for our pets is to keep them inside as much as possible when the temperature outside drops below freezing.
If your dog or cat loves the cold, consult your veterinarian. Your vet will know your pet and can advise you specifically for your pet’s health so you can be sure you are taking steps to keep your pets safe in wintertime cold weather.
Will Salt and Ice Melts Harm My Dog or Cat?
Many of us use salt or ice melts of some type to keep sidewalks and driveways free of ice and hazards for ourselves. However, these substances can be irritating to your pet’s paws and even to their mouth and intestinal tract if they lick the substance off of their paws and ingest it.
When buying your own salt or ice melts, do your research first. There are pet-friendly and safe ice melts that do not pose a threat to your pets or children or plants. Be sure to check the ingredients of what you have on hand, and maybe consider changing it up for safety.
If you take your dog or your cat outside and notice there might be ice melt on the ground, be sure to clean off their paws when you return home. You can even use a warm cloth or rag so you warm up their paws, too.
Is Antifreeze Harmful to My Dog or Cat?
The short answer is yes. The active ingredient in antifreeze is ethylene glycol. Unfortunately, ethylene glycol is a sweet-tasting, odorless liquid that is toxic to pets in even small doses. A teaspoon or two is enough to be fatal for a small dog or cat.
Our pets actually enjoy the flavor, which makes it especially dangerous.
Stage 1: The first reaction happens within 30 minutes and up to 12 hours. It is similar to other poison reactions and can involve drooling, vomiting, seizures, incoordination and excessive thirst.
Stage 2: This next stage happens 12-24 hours after ingesting antifreeze, and it can be a misleading stage. The symptoms you saw in stage 1 seem to subside, but really there is more internal injury happening.
Stage 3: In cats stage 3 happens faster, approximately 12-24 hours after ingestion. For dogs, this stage happens approximately 36-72 hours after ingestion. This stage will show symptoms again and severe acute kidney failure is occurring.
Antifreeze ingestion is scary for both you and your pet. It is treatable, but you need to move quickly to save the life of your dog or cat. If you suspect your pet ingested antifreeze, seek emergency vet care immediately.
To help prevent your pet from finding antifreeze:
- Store any unused antifreeze in a safe location out of the reach of your pet.
- Make sure your car is not leaking antifreeze.
- Be aware of your pet’s surroundings when you are walking them in cold weather because other people may be using antifreeze.
There are “pet-safe” antifreeze products. “Pet-safe” products use propylene glycol instead of ethylene glycol. Propylene glycol is much less toxic than ethylene glycol, but it is not risk-free. Propylene glycol can still be toxic if ingested, but it takes a much more significant amount for poisoning to occur. And although it is a safer choice, cats are more susceptible to ethylene glycol than dogs, so be aware of any of these products around your cats.
Other Dangers in Inclement Weather
Cold weather makes it hard for stray pets, too. Stray cats are known for seeking out warm places to sleep. If your car is out in the cold, give it a tap on the hood before you start it up. If a stray cat makes your engine its home for the night that loud tap will scare it away so you don’t harm it when you start your car.
Also, ice can be hazardous for our pets just because it’s ice. Slipping and sliding, or even cutting up their paws from sharp ice. For your dog, consider booties to help them have traction or a harness so that you can more easily pick them up if they should slip.
When it comes to cold weather, always be aware of your surroundings and know your pet. Some will love wintery walks and playing in the snow, and others would like a warm lap by the fire. No matter what, we can all make choices to keep our pets safe in wintertime.
What other hazards do you watch out for in the wintertime to help protect your cat or dog?