It’s not just humans that need to be extra careful during the winter months. With frigid temperatures and an endless onslaught of snow, your pets require special attention this time of year too. We asked Dr. Edward Schettino of the Animal Rescue League of Boston for some tips to make sure your furry friends get through through yet another New England winter healthy and happy.
The Cause for Paws
It’s not hard to find a pup prancing around Boston wearing booties this winter. But it’s not some foolish fashion statement; road salt can irritate animal paws, as can snow that gets caked between dog pads, which dogs will often nibble at until the skin is sore. If your dog isn’t pleased with wearing protective shoes, try a salve on the skin, like Bag Balm or Musher’s Secret. Also, be sure to wash their feet as soon as they come inside to wipe away salt and other irritants from the outdoors. “Keep your dog’s nails trimmed, and if there’s fur between the pads, trim that as well,” Schettino advises. “Dogs play on the ice or on the really hard compacted snow, and when dog nails are long, they can fracture their nail. That is very dramatic, and there’s a lot of blood.”
Baby, it’s Cold Outside
Some pups enjoy nothing more than frolicking through a snowy yard, while others will barely step outside if they don’t see grass. According to Schettino, the key to knowing whether your pet is comfortable outside is watching their body language. “An indoor dog probably isn’t going to enjoy it outside (for a long time). It all depends on the dog. If it’s below freezing, that’s too much for some dogs, big or small, and they’ll just let you know they don’t want to be outside. Look for signs of intolerance: picking up paws one at a time, and shivering.”
Don’t Let Sleeping Cats Lie
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If you’re a cat owner who lets your furry friend go outdoors, give them options, like having a litter box in the house if they usually go to the bathroom outside. Also, outdoor cats are always looking for warm places to snuggle up, which is why they will seek out spots underneath cars or in the engine block of cars. “If they’re sleeping and they don’t hear you, you could start the car and the cat could die,” says Schettino. That’s why you should always bang on the hood of the car to make sure they’ll hop out of the way before you turn the car on.
It’s Getting Hot in Here
“Be very careful with any type of heating source,” says Schettino. “Any type of heating element besides heat for your house: an electric heater, fireplace, anything that’s nice and warm, pets may lay close to, but sparks may fly out and land on their fur. And with an electric heater, they can definitely get burned. Be very careful with any type of heating source.”
On a Tight Leash
With crowded roads and snow plows on an endless loop around your neighborhood, keep in mind that it can be particularly dangerous to allow your pet to wander outside alone. That’s why you should always have your dog on a leash, and should keep your cat indoors during the snowy season. “If they’re walking the streets, a plow is not going to see them,” says Schettino. “It’s tough for all the animals out there now.”