All For Animals TV #50: Winter Pet Safety Tips From The ASPCA

Ruff winter?  All For Animals TV host Susan Richard checks in with ASPCA Adoption Center Medical Director Dr. Erin Wilson to get tips on how to keep our pets safe during the winter months.

Most important: Always keep the ASPCA Poison Control Hotline available: (888) 426-4435 and call immediately if  your pet ingests antifreeze or any other household chemical.

Safety Tips for Dogs:

  • Never let your dog off the leash on snow or ice, especially during a snowstorm. Dogs can lose their scent in the snow and easily become lost. More dogs are lost during the winter than during any other season, so make sure your dog always wears an ID tag.
  • If your large dog spends most of his time outside, take proper precautions during the colder months. Make sure your dog has an insulated and waterproof dog house and access to fresh water. Never leave your dog outside during a snowstorm or inclement weather including sleet, ice, snow, wind, or extreme cold.
  • Never shave your dog down to the skin in winter, as a longer coat will provide more warmth. If your dog is long-haired, simply trim him to minimize the clinging ice balls, salt crystals and de-icing chemicals that can dry his skin, and don’t neglect the hair between his toes.
  • Bathe your pets as little as possible during cold spells. Washing too often can remove essential oils and increase the chance of developing dry, flaky skin. If your pooch must be bathed, ask your vet to recommend a moisturizing shampoo and/or rinse.
  • Pets burn extra energy by trying to stay warm in wintertime. Feeding your pet a little bit more during the cold weather months can provide much-needed calories, and making sure she has plenty of water to drink will help keep her well-hydrated and her skin less dry.
  • Protect your dog’s paws.  Salt and deicing chemicals can be extremely painful when they come in contact with your dog’s paws.  Use booties or vaseline directly on the paw pads and make sure to wipe your dog’s paws when you get back indoors.  Wipe their fur around the belly area as well.
(Photo: Krista Menzel/Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals)

Safety Tips For Cats:

  • Bang loudly on the hood of your car before starting the engine. Outdoor, stray and feral cats sometimes sleep under car hoods to stay warm, but the fan belt can injure or kill a cat when the motor starts. Banging on the hood can help avoid catastrophe and give the cat a chance to escape.
  • Keep housecats indoors. Period. If your cat is an indoor/outdoor pet, keep them indoors with adequate heat until the mercury rises.
  • Keep cats (and dogs too!) away from dangerous heat sources.  Cats will gravitate toward anything warm, including a fireplace, candles, burners and radiators.  This can result in serious injuries that can even be fatal.  The ASPCA’s Dr. Erin Wilson says because cats are like toddlers, pet parents need to be proactive, anticipate what your cat might get into, and take the necessary precautions to prevent a problem.
  • Help Community Cats in your neighborhood:  There are ways to help keep stray and feral (“community”) cats safe from the elements.  The NYC Feral Cat Initiative, a program of the Mayor’s Alliance For NYC’s Animals, offers free workshops in managing and caring for community cat colonies around the five boroughs including TNR (trap-neuter-return), rescuing and raising (bottle feeding) kittens and setting up outdoor shelters for feral cats.  Get more info HERE.

For more information, check out the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center’s full list of cold weather safety tips, and download the APCC App to stay up-to-date on important information concerning your pets’ wellness. Also, if you see an animal outdoors and in need of assistance in cold temperatures, please contact your local shelter or law enforcement agency.