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Taking Care of Pets in the Snow, Ice and Cold Weather

2019 is finally behind us and we hope Santa Paws was very good to all (and Santa Claus, too). After a century of waiting, the roaring twenties are upon us again, but the New Year brings new challenges; looming on the horizon like a dark cloud-bank... One of these challenges is snow: Kids love it, Adults hate it, pets are amazed by it, but
snow, ice and cold weather can be dangerous things. Cold weather alone can cause a plethora of ailments and injuries for our four-legged friends. So, with that being said, here is a list of our top tips to help you keep your pet happy, safe and healthy in the cold months ahead.

Repeat Visits to Outside:
During cold spells (especially Irish ones) repeated exposure to snow, icy streets and freezing conditions can cause your pet’s skin and paws to become dry, flaky and sore. This is due to the sudden temperature changes in leaving a warm house and entering a cold garden (for example) multiple times throughout the course of a day. As well as
being an irritation for your pet, repeated scratching and itching of dry skin can lead to lesions and sores. The best way to counter this is to towel dry your pet once he/she returns indoors, taking special care to remove snow and ice from the footpad and from in-between the toes. Alternatively, you can limit exposure to the cold outdoors (within reason) and limit full-body exposure to water (such as baths). The simplest method to avoid weather-related injuries is to remove the weather and stay sheltered!

Grooming and Fur:
An animal’s fur is its best defense against a cold climate. Throughout the year, many pets shed and grow their hair and fur in accordance with the changing Seasons. During Winter, it can be detrimental to your pet to have them shaved or severely groomed as this affects their coat’s ability to do its job; stripping away natural oils and layers which help retain heat. Not only that, you could ruin their ‘Winter Coat’ entirely. For long haired dogs, a light trim is sufficient until the temperature starts rising. For short haired dogs, it might be no-harm to invest in a dog coat/rug, fur-lined jumper or turtle-neck sweater. Taking these precautions will ensure that your dog is protected against the worst that Winter has to offer!

Anti-Freeze and Salt:
As I’m sure we all know, Anti-freeze and Salt are worth their weight in gold during a good-ol’ Irish Winter. However, both can have adverse effects on the health of your pet. For starters, Anti-freeze is toxic to almost all pets as it contains ethylene glycol. Be sure to immediately clean any spillages when topping up your car; preventing any curious pets from finding it later and licking. Salt is relatively safe by comparison, but can exacerbate any wounds, discomforts or sores obtained on an evening stroll. Upon returning home, be sure to inspect your pet’s paws for any chunks and remove them. Salt is also ok to lick in extremely small doses, but do be wary that large amounts can be detrimental to your pet’s health, causing vomiting and dehydration. Vigilance
is key!

Energy Expenditure:
Food and treats are the key fuel in all aspects of your pet’s health, yet even more-so during Winter and snowy conditions. Providing a little extra food in your pet’s bowl or giving them an extra treat can do wonders when it comes to the evening walk. Extra food means more energy, so they’re not using all of their potential in keeping their bodies warm; leaving leftovers for play and fun! Pets with low energy will seem sluggish and lethargic, unable or unwilling to use precious fuel for anything other than staying warm. Remember, in the same way a house needs oil to stay heated, pets need food to run their ‘engines’.

Sub-Zero Temperatures:
The most important rule to abide by this Winter is: If its too cold for you, its too cold for them. If your pet is allowed in the house, provide a blanket or heat-pad for use during the night. If your pet isn’t allowed in the house, provide extra bedding or padding in their kennel or hutch. Rabbits, for example, are keen to pad out their nests and burrows in colder climates so make sure you give them the right tools for the job! Whereas installing a better bed or warmer blanket in your dog or cat’s kennel will do wonders in helping them stay warm. It also might be no harm to raise their kennel a few inches off the ground. This would prevent your pet becoming locked inside after a particularly heavy snowfall. If at all possible, do try and bring your pet inside – nothing beats the warm hearth of a fire!

Armed with the advice above, you and your pet should be more than able to tackle the deep-freeze this Winter. Snow, ice and cold weather need not be dreary and cautious, they can be fun, too! Though, as I’ve previously said, vigilance is key in keeping your pet safe.

We wish you and yours a Happy New Year and a warm, safe Winter!
If you encounter any emergencies with a pet this January (or anytime of year!), you can visit our emergency website, call our Meath and Northside Dublin Clinic on 01 8213189 or our Southside Dublin Clinic on 01 2987510. We’re open seven days a week and always available for any emergency, big or small!

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