Don’t forget your pets this winter says PDSA, the UK’s leading veterinary charity. With the extreme cold weather and even worse set to come before the winter’s out, PDSA has some important information on how to keep your pets safe and warm.
Hypothermia and frostbite can affect dogs and cats within minutes in below freezing temperatures. The best way to prevent it is to keep pets indoors when temperatures are near or below freezing. In addition, wind chill will cool their bodies even further.
The first thing to do if you suspect your pet is suffering from hypothermia is to take it into warm surroundings, make sure it is dry and call your vet for advice.
The most common cause of hypothermia in pets is when they have been outside in the freezing rain, snow or fallen into a river or pond. If left untreated, affected pets may develop signs of frostbite or may even die.
Frostbite is dangerous because it normally goes unnoticed beneath fur. It affects ears, feet, tail, scrotum and mammary glands, and largely affects dogs that have been lying on the ground. One good tip is to clip the hair between a dog‚s toes as hair can trap snow, which develops into ice balls leading to frost bite. After the initial numbness, there may be pain and skin sloughing. Basset hounds and other floppy-eared dogs can be quite prone to frostbite of their ears. If you suspect frostbite, gently apply warm water with a pad and get in contact with the vet as soon as you can. Do not rub the area or suddenly apply intense heat.
Rock salt, which is commonly used in winter to prevent ice, can cause irritation or tiny cuts and cracks to paw pads. Some small dogs and cats can even become frozen or stuck to icy areas and injure themselves while trying to break free.
Preventing hypothermia is the key:
Don’t leave a dog or cat outside in freezing temperatures for any length of time without access to shelter and warmth.
Don’t let your dog or cat rest on frozen ground.
Don’t take a dog for long walks outside during freezing weather.
Don’t leave a pet in a car. Even a few minutes in a cold car can cause hypothermia.
In some circumstances, dog coats or sweaters should be used before allowing a dog to venture outside. More than one layer may be required, and the same rules apply to what a person would wear i.e. the layer closest to the body should be a thin fleece or wool material to provide insulation and carry moisture away from the body.