Pet Health

CATS AND DOGS IN WINTER: COMMON COLD WEATHER PET ILLNESSES AND PREPARING FOR WINTER PET EMERGENCIES

Pet owners should be aware of cold weather conditions this winter when pets are outside. The temperature, weather conditions, and what type of shelter a dog or cat has access to can make a big difference in preventing cold weather pet emergencies. We suggest not leaving animals outside overnight in cold weather and not leaving them unsupervised outside when you’re not home.

3 COMMON COLD WEATHER PET ILLNESSES

At Pet Drug Store, we have found that there are three common cold weather illnesses that are potential pet medical emergencies experienced by cats and dogs, most of which are preventable with proper care:

1. HYPOTHERMIA IN PETS

Hypothermia is one of the most common issues caused by the freezing weather. Hypothermia in pets is caused by low body temperature caused by extreme cold. The combination of wet fur and cold weather can be dangerous to dogs and cats and contribute to hypothermia. Other causes of hypothermia include submersion in cold water for an extended period of time.

Anything below a dog or cat’s normal body temperature can be considered as hypothermia. A dog’s temperature is between 101°F and 102.5°F and cats should have a body temperature between 100.5°F and 102.5°F.

Symptoms of hypothermia include paleness of skin, shivering, and listlessness to the point of lethargy. When sustained for too long, hypothermia can be fatal: leading to coma, heart failure, and other organ shutdowns.

As soon as you suspect that your pet has hypothermia, try to keep them warm by wrapping them in warm blankets. You can also wrap a heating pad or a covered hot water bottle and put it near the pet’s body to increase their body temperature. Just make sure it’s not too hot and that it’s not directly on the skin, to avoid the risk of burns.

Rubbing dry can help if the pet is just wet but if you think they might have frostbite, rubbing the area with a towel can damage tissues.

At Pet Drug Store, we recommend checking your pet’s temperature every 10 minutes. If it is consistently below 98°F (36.7°C), seek immediate emergency veterinary attention. Once it’s above 100°F, remove the hot water bottle to avoid overheating.

 2. FROSTBITE IN PETS

Frostbite is tissue damage that occurs due to the cold. Frostbite in pets can vary from mild to severe, and primarily occurs on the tips of your pet’s tails, ears, and toes. The severity of frostbite depends on the pet’s size, age, fur thickness, and how long they’ve been outside in the cold.

Frostbite and hypothermia usually go hand-in-hand (or paw-in-paw), though frostbite isn’t as commonly life-threatening as hypothermia, unless it goes septic due to infection.

For cats and dogs in winter, a telling sign of frostbite involves pale skin. Watch out for a bluish-white hue, which is a sign of restricted blood flow. This happens because when skin is exposed to extreme cold, the body restricts blood flow to keep only the essential organs functioning.

Ice also usually forms on frostbite-affected areas, and the skin is often cold or brittle to the touch.

Watch out for these symptoms of frostbite, in increasing degrees of severity:

  • First degree: Pale, hard skin at the extremities that turns scaly, red, and swollen when warmed
  • Second degree: Blistering on the skin
  • Third degree: Skin darkening, which may occur over a period of several days; formation of gangrene

If you suspect your pet has frostbite, do much of the same as you would when treating cats and dogs in winter for hypothermia: keep them warm. Do not warm your pet directly from a heat source.

Treat the frostbitten area with a warm (dry) towel. Pat them with the towel — do not massage, as this will cause pain and may cause tissue damage.

 3. ANTIFREEZE POISONING

Antifreeze and rock salt and other ice melting chemicals are often used to keep cars running and to melt snow so that it’s easier to navigate wintery sidewalks, driveways, and roads. However, antifreeze can contain ethylene glycol, a substance that is sweet to the taste but is poisonous to pets.

Symptoms of antifreeze poisoning include “drunken” behavior, such as nausea/vomiting and wobbly walking, which can escalate to seizures and coma. If you’ve observed these symptoms or suspect your pet has ingested antifreeze, contact your vet immediately — the sooner, the better. Prevent antifreeze poisoning by storing antifreeze away from pets.

Clean up puddles of antifreeze that may come from your car or driveway. Protect your pet’s paws from both antifreeze and rock salt by using pet booties and wiping their paws after being outside. As much as possible, try to use “non-toxic” antifreeze, which contains propylene glycol as an active ingredient instead of ethylene glycol.

 

If your pet needs medications during the winter, contact Pet Drug Store for the best prices and delivery to your door. Visit PetDrugStore.com or call 800.930.3160

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