As temperatures plunge across Canada, local veterinarians are reminding pet owners that their furry friends are as susceptible to the cold as they are.
Dr. Kathryn Finlayson, a veterinarian with the East River Animal Hospital, advises against leaving pets outside for too long once temperatures dip below freezing.
“There are regulations with tethering pets, and how you can’t keep them tied outside. You don’t want to leave them out for long periods of time below freezing,” said Finlayson. “Dogs and cats, like humans, are susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia.”
Although it’s generally a bad idea to leave pets out in the cold too long, Finlayson said some breeds – such as huskies, in the case of dogs – are bred for colder climates, and more tolerant of the cold.
However, Finlay reminds pet owners that, “thick-coated huskies would be bred for colder climates, so they’re more tolerant of cold weather. A lot of dogs are so domesticated that they sleep in bed with humans, so it would be too much to expect them to be outside for too long in cold weather. It’s not a good idea.”
Pet owners should be aware of more than just the winter cold. Often, the resources we use to help deal with winter ice – including salt and antifreeze – can be harmful to pets.
“Owners need to be careful, especially at this time of year, about antifreeze and deicers. The animals walk through them, groom themselves and ingest it that way,” said Finlayson. “A lot of times, there’s a misconception that they’re just eating it now. That’s not typically how it happens. It gets ingested through grooming.”
Finlayson emphasized how important it is to take care when using antifreeze or deicer – and to clean pets’ paws after they’ve been outside.
Another problem pets can encounter is with salt, as it is an irritant to paws.
“If you’re outside walking them on sidewalks and there’s salt that has been put down, it can be irritating to their feet,” said Finlayson. “Sometimes people will wash their feet when they come in from outside, and some pets will tolerate booties when they go out.”
Also, with the many holiday indulgences going on, Finlayson reminds people not to allow their pets to eat the same chocolaty treats.
“Another thing that I get a lot of calls about at this time of year is pets ingesting chocolate,” she said. “I recently got a couple of calls about pets that ingested chocolate. Typically dogs will ingest it.”
Since chocolate is extremely toxic to dogs – depending on factors like the type and quantity of chocolate – Finlayson suggested that inducing vomiting to get it out of their system can be the best way to neutralize the threat.