Cold Weather Tips
Brrrr…it’s cold outside! If it’s too cold for you to go outside, it’s too cold for your pet! Winter’s chill affects animals, just like it affects people. Every year, the Ontario SPCA investigates thousands of complaints about animals left unprotected from winter weather. Exposure to harsh conditions can cause serious illness or death to animals, particularly during periods of freezing rain and rapid temperature fluctuations.
Canada’s laws require that animals receive adequate shelter and care. Willful failure to provide adequate shelter could lead to prosecution and a fine, jail sentence or prohibition from having custody of animals. Keep pets warm When the temperature drops below freezing, pets should not be left outside for extended periods.
The following guidelines will help you protect your companion animals when the mercury dips.
- Cats, short-coated dogs and puppies are particularly vulnerable in cold temperatures. Keep cats indoors and protect your dogs from frostbite or hypothermia by taking them outside for short periods during cold weather. Consider slipping your short-coated dog or puppy into a comfortable dog sweater or coat as an extra layer of warmth. Outdoors, felines can freeze, become lost or be stolen, injured or killed. Cats who are allowed to stray are exposed to infectious diseases, including rabies, from other cats, dogs and wildlife.
- Since puppies are generally less tolerant of cold weather than adult dogs, to housetrain your puppy during frigid temperatures put a jacket or sweater on him when you take him outside on leash with you to the designated “toilet" area. Give him a treat as soon as he is done, and then bring him back inside. If he hasn’t shown any signs of needing to “go" after a couple of minutes, bring him inside and supervise to prevent accidents, or crate him (dogs are less likely to soil where they eat or sleep), and then try again a little later.
- Avoid car hazards: During the winter, outdoor cats sometimes sleep under the hoods of cars. When the motor is started, the cat can be injured or killed by the fan belt. If there are outdoor cats in your area, bang loudly on the car hood before starting the engine to give the cat a chance to escape. Never leave your dog or cat alone in a car during cold weather. A car can act as a refrigerator in the winter, holding in the cold and causing the animal to freeze to death.
- Never shave your dog down to the skin in winter, as a longer coat will provide more warmth. When you bathe your dog in the colder months, be sure to completely dry him before taking him out for a walk.
- Never let your dog off the leash on snow or ice, especially during a snowstorm—dogs can lose their scent and easily become lost. More dogs are lost during the winter than during any other season, so make sure yours always wears ID tags. Ensure your pet always has a warm place to sleep away from drafts and off the floor. A thick cozy dog or cat bed with a blanket or pillow is great.
- Thoroughly wipe off your dog’s legs and stomach when he comes in out of the sleet, snow or ice. He can ingest salt, antifreeze or other potentially dangerous chemicals while licking his paws, and his paw pads may also bleed from snow or encrusted ice. Also, remove ice balls by placing your pet’s feet in warm (not hot) water before drying them off with a towel. Consider using “booties" to protect your pet’s paws.
- Does your dog spend a lot of time engaged in outdoor activities? Increase his supply of food, particularly protein, to keep him—and his fur—in tip-top shape.
- Protect outdoor dogs. Outdoor dogs must be provided adequate shelter and a constant supply of fresh water. While the Ontario SPCA strongly recommends bringing your dog indoors, dogs that live outside require as a minimum a dry, draft-free doghouse soundly built of weatherproof materials with the door facing away from prevailing winds. It should be elevated and insulated, with a door flap and bedding of straw or wood shavings. Check your pet’s water frequently to ensure it’s not frozen and use a tip-resistant plastic or ceramic bowl, rather than metal, to prevent your dog’s tongue sticking to the cold metal surface. There are also heated and/or insulated bowls available that prevent water from freezing. To learn more read Ideal Doghouse for Ontario’s Outdoor Dogs.
- Another danger for pets this time of year is ethylene glycol, which is found in antifreeze and brake fluids and is deadly to all animals. It tastes sweet, so animals may ingest it; a very small amount can be fatal. Like coolant, antifreeze is a lethal poison for dogs and cats. Emergency veterinary care is essential. Be sure to thoroughly clean up any spills from your vehicle, and dispose of the rags as hazardous waste. Be alert for antifreeze spills when out on walks and consider using products that contain propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol. Visit the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center more information.
Warm Weather Tips
There are many hazards in the summer time that can cause serious injury or death for a beloved pet. Avoiding dangers like heat stroke or garden hazards like insecticides are an important part of your pet responsibilities in the warmer months.
Guidelines for Protecting Your Companion in the Summer
NEVER leave a pet alone in a vehicle, even in the shade. Pets left in cars, or other unventilated areas, or tied up in the sun, are susceptible to heat stroke. Since dogs have only a limited ability to sweat, even a short time in a hot environment can be life-threatening. Temperatures inside a parked car can rapidly reach dangerous levels even on relatively mild days, and even if the windows are slightly open. A dog’s normal body temperature is 39°C and a temperature of 41°C can be withstood only for a very short time before irreparable brain damage or death can occur.
Pets left outdoors on hot summer days can also be in serious danger. Dogs should only be left outdoors for short periods, should have sufficient water and a cool, sheltered place out of direct sun. Walking early morning or evening when it is cooler is advisable.
Certain types of dogs – such as northern breeds or short-muzzled dogs like boxers and pugs – can have a more difficult time in the heat. Older dogs, overweight dogs, puppies under six months, dogs with certain medical conditions like lung or heart disease and dogs on certain medications may also be more susceptible to heat exposure.
First aid for heatstroke
Even if you are cautious, there may be a time when you will have to deal with heatstroke. Familiarize yourself with the signs of heatstroke and what to do. First aid and medical treatment are essential and can help save your dog’s life. Time is of the essence!
Signs of heatstroke include:
- Increased heart rate
- Excessive panting or drooling
- Confusion or disorientation
- Bright red gums
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- Collapse, seizure or coma
- Body temperature higher than 40°C
What to do:
Move your dog out of the heat immediately. Use a hose or wet towels to start cooling your dog down. Do not use ice. Offer your dog water. Take your dog to a veterinarian immediately. Continue cooling him/her with wet towels during the drive. If you’re unable to get to a veterinarian right away monitor his/her temperature and check for signs of shock. Stop the cooling process when your dog’s temperature reaches 40°C or his/her body temperature can drop too low and increase the risk of shock. Even if your dog cools down take him/her to a vet as soon as possible as some medical problems caused by heatstroke may not show up right away.
Dogs allowed to ride loose in the back of a pick-up truck can easily be thrown from the back into on-coming traffic. Flying debris can injure eyes and ears, and the metal flatbed can burn his/her paws. If your pet can’t ride with you in the cab of the truck, leave him/her at home; it’s safer for everyone!
Insecticides, herbicides and fertilizers are common causes of pet poisoning. Avoid walking your pet on lawns that have been recently sprayed with any of these chemicals; these substances, if ingested, can cause death. As a precaution, rinse her paws with water after your walk. For your garden maintenance, use non-toxic, natural alternatives. There are many natural gardening supplies available at most gardening centres. Numerous plants are harmful too.
Poisonous warm weather hazards
Many seemingly harmless items can be poisonous to your pet. Make sure you know your veterinarian’s procedures for emergency situations, especially ones that occur after business hours, and keep phone numbers for your veterinarian, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, and a local emergency veterinary service in a convenient location.
Poisonous hazards include:
- Animal toxins – toads, insects, spiders, snakes and scorpions
- Blue-green algae in ponds
- Citronella candles
- Cocoa Mulch
- Compost piles, fertilizers
- Flea products
- Outdoor plants and plant bulbs
- Swimming pool treatment supplies
- Fly baits containing methomyl
- Slug and snail baits containing metaldehyde
Fireworks are terrifying for many pets. They will often run, get lost and end up in animal shelters. When fireworks displays are planned, leave your pet at home and play music or the television to help disguise the noise. Close windows and blinds or curtains.