Cold weather and cabin fever

posted on January 31, 2019 by Dr. Jamie Hartman

With the polar vortex swirling freezing air around, there are a few safety and sanity tips we’d like to share with you!

Keep pets inside!  This may seem obvious to some, but it bears repeating.  While some dogs have thicker/double coats and are adapted to colder temperatures, these negative temperatures are too cold for all pets.  Frost bite is possible on sensitive skin such as paw pads.  Limit exposure to short bathroom breaks, and use protective wear such as booties, paw balms, and/or sweaters and coats.

If you have pets that cannot be kept inside, make sure they have access to shelter and unfrozen water.  Consider offering shelter in your garage or shed, or providing “nest boxes” for neighborhood strays.  Leaving pets outside in extreme cold temperatures, especially without adequate shelter, can be construed as animal cruelty and may be cause for legal action.  If you see a pet outside and are concerned, you can contact your local police for guidance.

Wipe feet after walks outside-sidewalk salt can be irritating and may even be toxic.  Use a warm, damp rag to wipe feet after walks outside to prevent your pet from licking these.  Or invest in the aforementioned booties.  Use pet safe salt on your own driveways and sidewalks if you are able.

Stay off ice-even with the extreme cold we’ve been having, it is possible to get injured, loose control of your pet when there is no traction, or in the worst case scenario, fall through ice.

Monitor for signs of hypothermia.  Shivering, lethargy, progressing to slowed heart rate and respiratory rate (breathing), coma, and even death can occur.  Warm pets slowly, and avoid heating pads and other hot items when rewarming.  Call a veterinarian if you are concerned your pet may be suffering from hypothermia.

Make noise when starting vehicles-stray cats and other critters are drawn to the warmth of a recently run engine.  Tap on hood, honk horn, and check for animals before starting your vehicle.

If you are using antifreeze, make sure to keep pets out of the area and clean up any spills immediately.  Antifreeze is sweet and draws your pets’ attention, and is extremely toxic.  Call a veterinarian immediately if your pet gets into antifreeze.

Be prepared-if the power goes out or a blizzard strikes, make sure you have enough food and medications for at least 5 days for your pets.  Keep an emergency kit for your pet in case you need to relocate due to the weather-include food, medications, grooming supplies, vaccine records, and your veterinarian’s information at a minimum.

Lastly, leave your pet at home.  You’re probably bringing extra clothing for yourself in these extreme cold temperatures in case the car gets stranded.  You cannot do the same for your pets.  It is too cold for them to sit in the car waiting for you while you run errands, so unless you need to specifically bring them somewhere, leave them home and warm.

Now, as for the cabin fever from being stuck in the house.  Play games of hide and seek-hide treats around the house and let your dog sniff them out.  Play chase with a toy with your cat or dog.  Dogs can play fetch in the house going up and down stairs or hallways.  Puzzle toys encourage your pet to interact to get a treat.  Find a recipe for homemade pet treats that you can bake for something for the whole family to do and your pet to enjoy.