Winter pet safety tips

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(ABC 6 News) – Snow is falling, temperatures are dropping, and some dogs are all for it, but the winter months can create numerous threats to a pet’s well-being.

“There’s always the routine things we think about: watching out for frostbite, the ear temps and extremities, sometimes we forget that antifreeze drips out of our cars, and that’s extremely toxic to our pets,” says Dr. Christine Vogel, owner and veterinarian at Animal Health Care Veterinary Hospital in Rochester.

Dr. Vogel says, to keep pets safe in the winter, pet owners need to pay attention to cracked or damaged paws,  diet and excerise, and the dangers of sidewalk salt.

Just like humans, an animals skin gets dry in the colder parts of the year. Dr. Vogel explains that “we forget the trauma from when they’re running around on the ice, or really hard snow, we see lacerations and puncture wounds, and abrasions on the feet.”

Petroleum jelly and paw butter can help keep your pet’s feet from getting dry and cracked.

Booties are another great way to keep paws protected from ice wounds.

It’s important to pay attention to your pet’s diet and exercise habits during the winter.

If an animal is going outside less, or not getting as much physical activity, pet owners may notice weight gain.

“The dogs who are indoor/outdoor in the winter typically gain several pounds over the winter and in the summer they tend to lose them,” says Dr. Vogel. “And just like us, as we get older, every decade our metabolism slows down a little bit more, so feeding a little bit less in the months that you’re not going to be as active will certainly be helpful.”

A dog’s paws are a major area of concern during these cold months, and sidewalk salt often gets trapped in their paws and can cause chemical burns on their feet. 

The salt can also be ingested if the dog is trying to lick the salt off, which can make your pet very sick.

Shania Goertz’s dog, Max, recently recovering from salt poisoning.

“As a dog parent it was really scary because it’s not something that’s the first thing that crossed my mind,” says Goertz. “It caught me off guard, and you never want to see your animal sick, and seeing that is heart breaking. You’re just like ‘did I do something wrong?’ ‘How can I fix this?’ And then to realize, oh, it was something as easy and preventable as the sidewalk and how we walk him outside”

Dr. Vogel says if your dog doesn’t like booties, pet owners can use paw wax to keep salt and other chemicals from getting stuck between paw pads. 

Just make sure the dog doesn’t lick it, and remember to wipe paws clean when you get back inside. “So whether we’re keeping our dogs safe by walking in the snow, using little booties, or even the wax that you can put on their paws, every little bit can help them,” says Goertz.