Winter in the Northeast is hard on everyone, including our animal companions. Metro asked some experts for tips on keeping pets safe and healthy during the cold weather.
“Small animals need extra care in winter,” says Josh Axelband, general manager of the Union Square Petco in NYC.
“Hamster and guinea pig habitats should have no cold drafts and extra bedding for warmth. In cold weather, it may be necessary to buy a stronger watt bulb to keep your reptiles’ habitat at a comfortable temperature. Exotic birds can also be harmed by cold drafts,” he adds. “If you plan to travel with your companion animal, whether it’s to the veterinarian or elsewhere, heat your car before bringing the animals inside it. Birds, lizards and cold-blooded animals need to be kept warm.”
In winter, chemically treated sidewalks and roads are added environmental hazards.
“Ice melt crystals can cause skin irritation, especially after repeated or prolonged exposure,” says Julia Pesek, MSPCA at Nevins Farm’s Community Outreach Coordinator. “Wipe paws clean with a damp cloth after trips outside, making sure no crystals are lodged between their toes. Most retailers sell animal-friendly ice-melt products, which benefit all the animals in your neighborhood and the environment. Also, antifreeze is highly toxic, and animals require emergency medical care if they ingest it. Immediately, clean up any spills thoroughly.”
“The MSPCA strongly believes that companion animals should live indoors with their human families,” adds Pesek. “If you do allow your cat outside unsupervised, provide them with a warm and safe shelter.”
The daily walk can turn painful in winter
“Just like humans, dogs, especially puppies, are sensitive to the cold. Frozen snow and broken ice and salt can cut the soft pads of your pet’s feet, so keeping them covered is a must,” says Kathi Malloy, owner of Boston’s pet emporium, Bark Place.
A popular paw protector is rubberized boots called Pawz. “The boots are inexpensive and work just like socks,” adds Malloy, “and allow your dog move comfortably without having to feel the harsh elements of winter under their feet.”
And do you really need to be told to never, ever allow a dog – or any animal — to run on frozen ponds or rivers? C’mon.