Winter is in full swing in Southeast Texas, and the chilly temperatures can be uncomfortable—and dangerous—for pets. Keep your pet warm, dry, and safe this winter season with these cold weather safety tips for pets from the team at Neighborhood Veterinary Centers of Calder

#1: Keep antifreeze stored safely away from pets

Many people use antifreeze during cold weather to protect their cars and pipes from damage from freezing temperatures. Antifreeze’s active ingredient, ethylene glycol, is extremely toxic to humans and, unfortunately, the chemical has a sweet taste that attracts many cats and dogs. Ingesting only a small amount of ethylene glycol can be toxic—if not deadly—for pets. 

Antifreeze poisoning signs include:

  • Unsteadiness
  • Vomiting
  • Depression
  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Loss of appetite
  • Seizures

Antifreeze poisoning in pets is a serious medical condition that requires prompt veterinary care. If you know—or only suspect—your pet may have ingested antifreeze, contact our Neighborhood Veterinary Centers of Calder team or Animal Poison Control immediately. 

Prevent your pet from ingesting antifreeze with these tips:

  • Storage — Keep antifreeze in a sealed, leak-proof container.
  • Disposal — Take used antifreeze to a service station for disposal—don’t pour it on the ground.
  • Leaks — Check driveways for antifreeze puddles that have leaked from the car.
  • Usage — Use alternative, less toxic antifreeze products when possible.
  • Protection — If you put antifreeze in toilets, ensure you keep the lid down and the room door closed.

#2: Dress your pet warmly in cold weather

You no doubt wear a coat on frigid days, and may wonder whether your pet should wear one, too. While dressing a pet sometimes gets a bad rap—in some cases, rightfully so—some pets are more vulnerable to the cold and the added layer of insulation can help. Consider a jacket for the following pets:

  • Small and toy breeds — These pets’ small frame and thin hair may not provide enough protection. 
  • Short-haired breeds — No matter their size, pets with short hair coats do not have enough insulation and need a jacket in cold weather.
  • Recently groomed pets— Grooming, especially clipping or shearing the pet’s coat, can alter the coat’s natural protection. 
  • Short-legged breeds — Pets with short legs get cold more quickly because their bellies and bodies are close to the ground and they can more likely contact the cold—sometimes ice-covered—ground. 
  • Pets with a health condition —  An unhealthy pet may have a hard time regulating their body temperature, and be more susceptible to the cold.
  • Senior pets — Senior pets are less able to regulate their body temperature. 

#3: Watch for signs your pet is cold

Thick fur or not, pets who are left outside in freezing temperatures can easily develop frostbite and hypothermia. Monitor your outside pet, looking for signs that they are too cold and need warmth. Signs include:

  • Shivering
  • Holding up their paws
  • Moving slowly 
  • Limping
  • Seeking shelter 

Limit your pet’s outdoor time when temperatures drop below 35 degrees, and keep them inside in below-freezing temperatures. If you suspect your pet has hypothermia or frostbite (i.e., their temperature falls below 98 degrees), contact our team immediately.

#4: Leave your pet at home when running errands

You probably know that hot cars are dangerous for pets, but cold cars also pose a significant risk. A pet who is left alone in a cold car for too long is at risk of rapidly becoming frostbitten or hypothermic, so leave your pet safe and warm at home when you run errands. 

#5: Prepare for a cold-weather pet emergency

Winter brings the likelihood of severely cold weather, and you should be prepared with emergency kits for your family and your pet. Include the following items in your pet emergency kit:

  • A week’s supply of food, water, and medications 
  • Bowls
  • Bedding
  • Crate and carrier for small animals
  • Favorite toys and treats
  • Calming aids, such as calming vests, catnip, and anti-anxiety medication
  • Medical records 
  • Heartworm and parasite preventives

Protect your pet this winter with our tips, and do not hesitate to contact us if you have additional questions about cold weather pet safety, or it’s time to schedule your pet’s wellness exam. Contact our Neighborhood Veterinary Centers of Calder team and make an appointment.