As many jokes as we hear about Toronto being the “banana belt” of Canada, even a mild Canadian winter requires some extra thought to keep your pets safe and healthy.
1. Outdoor visits should be short enough that your pet doesn’t get cold.
- Dogs need outdoor exercise, but make sure your walks aren’t so so long that your pet is chilled. Remember that a short-coated dog may feel the wind more than you do.
- Dogs should be leashed, or supervised in off-leash areas at all times.
- As much as possible cats should be kept inside. Some cats that normally go outside may not tolerate being kept indoors, resulting in undesirable behaviour, particularly around the litter box. In this case, make sure that you closely monitor your cat’s outdoor activity and the length of time they have been outside. Again, make sure they don’t get wet or chilled.
2. Outdoor cats and stray cats make seek warmth in wheel wells or under car hoods. Wake any sleeping animals by knocking on the hood of your car before getting in and starting the engine.
3. If you bring your dog near any of Toronto’s lakes or rivers, make sure to keep your pet out of the water and off of any ice, even if it appears to be solid. Being wet will make your pet much more subject to being chilled. Slipping on ice can easily result in joint injuries in dogs, and there is always the chance that the ice is not as solid as it appears and may give way.
4. Dress your dog appropriately for outdoor activity.
- Short-coated dogs-such as Greyhounds, Beagles, and clipped breeds should be dressed in warm protective clothing.
- Small Dogs such as Yorkshire Terriers and Chihuahuas should also be in warm protective clothing. Their small size makes them susceptible to loss of body heat.
- At times when salt and ice melter have recently been in use, dogs should be wearing boots. See our upcoming separate blog post on this topic
5. Wipe off your pets’s foot pads and stomach fur after returning from the outdoors.
6. Pets that spend a greater amount of time outdoors may require more food.
7. Antifreeze products containing ethylene glycol are highly toxic. They can produce life-threatening kidney damage, even in small amounts. Many windshield washer products contain methanol, which if ingested can cause drooling, vomiting, drunkenness and severe central nervous system depression. Antifreeze products smell and taste sweet to pets, so they are very appealing. It is likely that manufacturers will soon be required to add a bitter agent to antifreeze, but this hasn’t happened in Canada yet. Make sure that your own vehicle isn’t leaking antifreeze. Be careful not to spill when topping up your windshield washers. And most importantly, keep your pet away from any spilled substances on the street. If you suspect that your pet has ingested antifreeze, contact us immediately for veterinary attention.
8. Ice melter products may contain ingredients that can be very irritating to the skin and gastrointestinal tract. As well they may contain ingredients of unknown origin that could also potentially result in more severe effects, depending on the product and the type. Contact us for veterinary advice if you are concerned about your pet’s exposure to an ice melter product.