Tips For Caring For Your Pet In The Cold Weather

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As the weather gets colder, it can become more important to prioritize safety for our pets. Freezing temperatures, inches of snow and slippery ice can all cause problems for cats and dogs alike. 

Here are some winter pet safety tips you can consider following this winter:  

How Can I Make Sure my Pet Stays Warm? 

Bringing your pet indoors and making sure they have a warm, cozy place to sleep is a good first step. Providing your pet with plenty of pillows and blankets will allow them to keep their body temperature regulated and get plenty of shut-eye. 

For those pet parents who keep a short hair cut on their pets, it can be beneficial to avoid shaving during the winter months. More fur can mean more warmth. If you have a short-hair breed, consider purchasing a sweater or coat that covers their mid-section to the base of their tail. While some pet owners may consider this fashion statement fun, others may consider it a must-have for their pet. 

Can I Continue to Bathe my Pet Outside? 

No, it is time to bathe your dog indoors.  Dogs are more susceptible to catching a cold in the winter months, as well as suffering from hypothermia or frost bite.1 Utilizing your bathroom to bathe and groom your pet is necessary. 
 
Consider turning up the heat in the bathroom and checking the water temperature after you have filled up the tub. Dogs can suffer burns from hot water, and may be much more cooperative if the water is a comfortable, lukewarm temperature. Check out these additional tips for wintertime bathing.

How to Give your Pet a Bath 

Prior to bathing your pet, brush out all mats and excess fur. Be sure to use a dog shampoo and be weary of getting it in their eyes. Rinse out the shampoo thoroughly, and try to keep water out of their ears as much as possible to prevent infection. Utilize your hands as a squeegee to remove excess water, then towel dry. After your pet is dry, you will want to brush them again to remove any fur that was loosened during the bath. Never let a pet outside that is damp or wet; make sure your pet does their business prior to getting a bath and is let out only after being completely dry. 

Chemical Hazards 

Snow and ice melt can be made with chemicals that cause burns or even be toxic to pets.2   Be sure to clean your pet’s paws and underbelly after being outside; ice melts that have gotten caught in paws may cause burning and irritation. Remove all the snow and ice, especially in between the pads of their feet, to prevent licking and ingestion of any residual chemical as well. 

Antifreeze poisoning can also be a serious hazard for pets in the winter months. The sweet aroma and taste of the toxin ethylene glycol can trick pets into having a taste, but ingestion can endanger your pet’s life and cause serious kidney damage. To protect your pet, keep antifreeze sealed and out of reach. To lessen the threat of antifreeze poisoning, consider choosing a brand of antifreeze that contains propylene glycol, which is less toxic than ethylene glycol.4 If you suspect your pet has ingested antifreeze, get them veterinary care immediately. Treatment in the first few hours is critical to your pet’s survival. 

Signs of antifreeze poisoning in pets:

  • Lethargy and disorientation 
  • Vomiting 
  • Oral and gastric ulcers 
  • Kidney failure 
  • Coma 
  • Death 

Additionally, ice salts and other melts can have chemicals that irritate pet paws.  Consider winterizing paws to stay on the safe side.

Do I Continue Flea, Tick and Heartworm Prevention in the Winter? 

Yes, it is imperative that pet owners continue to treat their pets with preventative medication during the winter months. Heartworm, as well as flea and tick preventatives may be given to pets year-round. 

Remember, Mosquitoes are carriers of microscopic heartworm larvae, which can be spread to your pet with just one bite.6 During the winter months when mosquitoes are scarcely seen outdoors in cold climates, they survive in places such as garages, basements and sheds. For reasons such as this, it's important to continue your pet's preventative medications as normal. 

Just like mosquitoes, fleas and ticks can survive the cold winter months. These insects can be carriers of life-threatening conditions such as: Lyme Disease, Murine Typhus, Plague, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and other illnesses that can affect your pet and your entire family.7  

To protect your pet and your home, treat your pet with a monthly preventative.  Ask your veterinarian to recommend a product that contains an insect growth regulator (IGR) that will help prevent maturation of eggs, larvae, and adults. 

Can Flu Season Affect my Pet? 

While parents know winter brings several bouts of runny noses and coughs, many overlook the impact of flu season on their pets. Canine influenza was discovered several years ago and poses a severe threat to dogs.  Dogs have not had the chance to build up immunity to the disease, thus putting them all at risk.
Most dogs that contract this virus show mild symptoms, such as a cough, runny nose and fever, however, more severe cases can develop pneumonia and ultimately lead to death.  

As with the flu in humans, canine influenza is easily spread. It can be spread by direct contact with an infected dog, by contaminated objects, and by humans who have been in contact with an infected dog.  Canine influenza can be diagnosed and is often treatable with responsive care of medication and fluids.

Though winter does present new dangers for your pet, it can also be a very enjoyable time of the year. Whether it is playing in the snow with your furry friend or snuggling by a fireplace, you and your pet can make the most out of winter months by preparing for the change. 

Consider Investing in Pet Insurance 

Looking for more ways to keep your pets happy and healthy? Consider investing in a pet insurance policy with MetLife Pet Insurance.1  Our dog insurance and cat insurance policies can provide the coverage and care your furry family members deserve.  Get your free quote today. 

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Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances. 

1Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions. 

1Dog Hypothermia: Causes, Treatments, Prevention, and FAQs,  PetMD 
2Pet Safe Ice Melt and Other Winter Hazards for Pets , Homes Alive CA 
3Ethylene Glycol Poisoning in Dogs, VCA Animal Hospitals 
4Case Study 14: Ethylene/Propylene Glycol Toxicity, The National Academies Press 
5Antifreeze poisoning in dogs and cats, Veterinary Teaching Hospital at Washington State University 
6Mosquitoes and Heartworm: An Increasing Threat to Your Dog, Pet Health Network 
7Dogs, Ticks and Tick-Borne Parasites, Pet Health Network 
8Canine Influenza (Dog Flu) | Seasonal Influenza (Flu), Center for Disease Control 
9Dog Flu - Canine Influenza Symptoms, PetMD