Somewhere in Canada today there is a person out for a walk with their dog, blissfully unaware that winter is coming and poses a risk to their pet. We do not have that luxury in Morinville, or anywhere in the Edmonton Region. In the past month, this area has had 30 cm of snow and temperatures that have dropped to minus forty degrees (it does not matter which scale you use at that temperature). Don’t even get us started on the wind-chill factor! The staff at Morinville Vet Clinic have to think about pets in winter every day because they see what winter weather can do every day.
The major health concerns for pets in winter have to do with the cold. Many think that just because their dog or cat has a fur coat the cold has no effect on them. While some dogs were built for surviving in the cold (Huskies have a second layer of fur that acts as insulation and Saint Bernard’s have a thick coat and stocky bodies allowing them to resist the cold) these breeds are however in the minority for pets in Edmonton. Every Chihuahua in the Edmonton area this month would probably rather cross its legs for 24 hours than go outside to go to the bathroom. When it does go out to do its business, I will guarantee you that it will set a land speed record to get back into the house. You might remark that cold isn’t that dangerous for pets in winter and that they will be fine once they get back inside and warm up. Tell that to the cats and small dogs that have lost parts of ears, tails and toes to frostbite. The vets at Morinville Vet Clinic treat these often and urge you to remember that any pet can go outside in winter: it is just a matter of how long they can stay out.
Even those that stay out all the time need a little help. Sled dogs in the arctic survive by seeking shelter from the storm and that fact is true for all pets in winter. If your dog is outside all the time in winter, it needs shelter from the wind and snow. It also needs water. According to Dr. Michael High, “A large German Shepherd should drink about two liters (half a gallon) of water every day. If the only water provided is frozen, there is danger of dehydration.” Some owners say that their dogs get it from eating snow. That is desperation, because we are talking about FIVE GALLONS of snow! Would it not be easier to just provide fresh water a couple of times a day?
One of the more recent and lesser known risks for pets in winter is the use of de-icer on sidewalks and roads. These products are all chemicals that mix with the water of the snow and ice to form slurry that will not freeze as easily. People get this slurry on their boots, cars get it on their underside but pets get it on their bare feet. Even the safest of ones will still dry out the pads and cause cracking. The cases that Dr. High sees at the clinic include not only dogs that have been licking at their feet and made the toes raw but those who have swallowed the slurry and got an upset stomach. Our best advice is that after your dog has been out for a walk on a path with de-icer on it, you should help by washing off their feet.
This is the key piece of advice from Dr. High. “Most of the ways to help pets in winter center on just being aware of what the hazards are, and minimizing them. The best way to help pets get through winter in Morinville is to have them curl up in front of a warm fire with a good book and a cocoa–no wait! That’s me.”
Written by Morinville Veterinary Clinic