Winter is hard for everyone, but especially for pet owners, who have to brave the cold and the dark to let their furry companion use the bathroom and get a little exercise. Hidden hazards exist underneath the snow and in unexpected places, so we’ve put together a list of four ways to keep your pet safe this winter.
#1: Keep safety in mind when walking with your pet
Walks are a necessity for most dogs, and that doesn’t change during the winter months. Northern Midwest areas like Peoria routinely experience below-freezing weather and snow accumulation, which can make routine walks and potty breaks dangerous. Not only can snow hide sharp ice and foreign materials that can cut tender feet, ice melt products can be toxic to pets who lick it off their paws.
To keep your pup’s paws safe from ice and other hazards, consider buying booties, like these from Ruffwear. Most dogs aren’t accustomed to wearing booties, so start with short sessions, putting a bootie on only one foot to get your pup accustomed to her feet being handled and covered, and use positive reinforcement, rewarding her with small pieces of kibble or carrot, which do not have many calories. Gradually put booties on all four feet and increase the time your pet wears them, until she works up to wearing them on her daily walk.
Whether or not your pet accepts the booties, stick to leash walks on well-maintained streets and sidewalks to avoid sharp objects hidden underneath the snow. After returning home, wipe off her feet with a damp cloth, or rinse her off in the bathtub to remove any trace of salt or ice-melt chemicals.
#2: Keep your pet fashionably warm
We would never go for a walk in the dead of winter without bundling up, and our pets may also need an extra layer. Short-haired, young, elderly, or sick animals need extra protection against the elements, and many options and fashion choices are available. This collection from Chewy offers a wide range of sweaters, rain jackets, and (fake) fur-lined parkas. Ensure that your pet’s new coat doesn’t fit too tightly, as it could restrict her breathing, or loosely enough that she can trip over it.
#3: Don’t forget safety measures for pets inside the home
Safety considerations must extend to inside your home. The spot in front of the fireplace or wood stove can be a cozy place to nap, but take care to ensure that stray embers or sparks can’t escape and singe fur, or start a fire. If you use a space heater, ensure it shuts off if a family member, or your pet, tips it over, to avoid an accidental fire. You may be tempted to put a heating pad on your pet’s bed for extra warmth, but electric heating devices can malfunction and burn your pet.
#4: Slip-slidin’ away—take care to ensure your pet—or you—do not slip on ice or stairs
Many backyards are accessed by going down stairs, and snow, freeze-and-thaw cycles, and ice storms can create dangerous conditions. Elderly, arthritic pets are especially at risk of slipping and falling on wet or icy steps. Before you let your pup out to use her favorite bathroom spot, shovel the snow from the steps, and make a path for your pet to follow when the need arises. If conditions are particularly bad, consider carrying your pet up and down the steps until the ice can be removed. Use only pet-friendly ice melt, and wipe off her feet in the house to avoid accidental ingestion.
Winter weather is part of life in Illinois, and special considerations must be taken to keep our pets safe. If you have questions regarding your pet’s safety this winter, contact one of our conveniently located clinics, where one of our knowledgeable team members will be happy to help.