Since we have just had our first,and possibly only, snowstorm of the year, thoughts for keeping your pets safe and healthy for the winter are on my mind. Exposure to the dry, cold air and cold rain can cause chapped paws and dry itchy skin much like it is for us. But these are not the only discomforts for your pets in winter weather.
Keeping your home humidified and towel drying your pet, with special attention to the paws, can help with the dry chapped skin. Reducing the amount of bathing will remove your pet’s natural oils that help protect from dry, flaky skin. If you must bathe, ask your vet to recommend a moisturizing shampoo or rinse. When grooming, consider keeping your pet’s coat longer in the wintertime. If your pet is long haired, trim to minimize clinging ice balls, salt, and de-icing chemicals. Again, with special attention to the hair between the toes. If your friend is short haired, consider getting a coat that covers from the neck to the base of the tail, including the belly. Remember to consider your pet’s age, older animals will not tolerate the cold for as long.
De-icing chemicals and salt can pose many skin problems too. Fortunately, the streets in Port Townsend are only treated with gravel, but there are still other chemicals and salts on sidewalks and off of cars coming into town. Carrying a small towel on hikes can help to reduce irritated paws. After each walk, wash and dry your pets feet and belly to reduce exposure to ice, salt, and chemicals. It is also a good practice to check paw pads for cracks and redness. Messaging petroleum jelly or other paw protectant into paw pads before going out can help protect feet. Booties provide even more coverage and can also keep sand or salt from getting lodged between toes to irritate. There are pet friendly ice melts available if you need to de-ice surfaces.
But that is not the only danger from chemicals. Antifreeze is lethal to pets in small doses. During walks, don’t let your dog drink from puddles. For our feline friends, it is a good idea to clean paws when they come in so they don’t lick chemicals off. Clean up any spills from your vehicle thoroughly and consider pet safer (propylene glycol) based products rather than ethylene glycol. Note that I said pet safer, it is a better alternative, but still not something good for pets to ingest.
Pets burn extra energy in the winter, so if they go outdoors be sure to feed a little bit more, as well as giving them plenty of fresh water to prevent dehydration. Be sure your companions have a warm place to sleep up off the floor and out of drafts. A cozy dog or cat bed and warm blanket to snuggle in is perfect.
Remember, if it is too cold for you, it is probably too cold for your pet. If left outdoors, pets can freeze or suffer from other hypothermia effects such as disorientation and become lost. Additionally, cars can hold in the cold and cause animals to freeze, soo don’t leave pets in your car alone during cold weather.
And lastly, be sure to enjoy the winter weather together whether that is cozy book reading with your favorite feline or romping in the snow with your pup!