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Potentially deadly winter danger for your pets

If you’re ready for the snowy season to wrap up, you’re likely not alone.

But, according to Punxsutawney Phil, winter is going to go on, and on….and on.

And you probably have one of two types of pets: the kind that relishes a romp in the winter wonderland, or the kind that will put one paw into the powder and cringe at the chilly mess, then rush to wrap up their business just as quickly as possible.

No matter how your four-legged pal reacts to the snow, there are some things we all need to keep in mind for keeping our pets safe for the season.

I talked with Dr. Dee Dee Bodenhorst, a veterinarian with Jones Animal Hospital in Bristol, Tennessee, to get her take on some important winter weather concerns.

She told me something that shocked me. I knew that antifreeze is deadly, but I had no idea that it can quickly cause kidney failure even if your pet consumes as little as a TABLESPOON.

“Antifreeze is a serious toxin around this time of year,” said Dr. Bodenhorst.

So, be sure to check for cracks in the plastic coolant reservoir in your car and leaks in your radiator. And even look for leaks in the actual bottle if you have one just sitting in your garage. YIKES!  Such a scary thought, especially since our littlest rescue pup Dasher will lap up anything, from lotion on your legs to the children’s bath water.

Then there’s that pesky salt.

“It can be irritating to paws,” said Dr. Bodenhorst. “So if you have little booties, that’s ideal. Or, just wipe them off really well when you come inside.”

Not only does it help your pet’s paws from getting sore, the bonus is that it also means less cleanup in the long run! I’m sure you’re no stranger to those faint (or not so faint) little salty paw prints that get tracked through the house. And less cleanup means more time for snuggling with your clean-pawed pal on those cold winter evenings.

photo (1)Courtesy Holly Garland Casto for

Have an outdoor dog? Well move over hot dog, a cool dog’s movin’ in (just a little mix n’ match from George Thorogood’s Move It On Over – don’t ask me why that popped into my head).

“Bring them in when possible,” said Dr. Bodenhorst. “If they have to stay outside – keep them off the ground and sheltered, out of the wind and elements. And check their water frequently to make sure it hasn’t frozen on them.”

But Dr. Bodenhorst also pointed out that there are definitely conditions that are too cold for even the sheltered outdoor animals. It’s important to have an indoor space for your pet, especially when the temperature drops below 20 degrees Fahrenheit. And be mindful of that dreadful wind chill.

This is particularly important for your pups and older pets – even when you’re just getting them out for quick potty breaks.

“Remember, the young, elderly and short-coated breeds have the hardest time in the cold weather,” said Dr. Bodenhorst.

And don’t forget about those extremities. Your pet’s paws, ears and tails are vulnerable.

“Occasionally we’ll see frostbite in dogs and cats,” said Dr. Bodenhorst, who recommends limiting outdoor time in the extremely cold conditions.

Need some great pet products to keep your fur baby safe and warm? Natural Pet Supply in Johnson City and Knoxville, TN is a wonderful retailer that offers Gold Paw Fleece (pawsome!) and Pawz rubber booties — which get fantastic reviews.

pawzImage from

As for our kitties, this is the time of year when they become very resourceful.

“Outdoor cats like to hide in warm engines in the hood of a car,” warned Dr. Bodenhorst. “So bang on your hood or honk your horn to prevent serious injury to your cat.”

With the frozen tundra you’ll find in so many areas right now, it may be hard to imagine that some of our tiniest pests are still thriving. But it’s probably not a good idea to cut corners when it comes to that flea and tick medication.

“We do see an increase in fleas in the spring through fall, but we still recommend flea prevention year round,” said Dr. Bodenhorst. “Adult fleas live on your pets, so the weather is not a factor. They can be in your home, they head to indoor settings. So we need to help control the adult population.”

What about ticks?

“We see more in the warmer weather, but I saw a puppy with ticks on him just last week,” said Dr. Bodenhorst. “Now, he’d been staying in a barn, but your house dog can still get them and prevention is better than treating them after they have a tick.”

Are heartworms still a danger during the winter?

“Heartworms are carried by mosquitos, so transmission is more common spring through fall, but any time there’s a warm patch, they can still transmit heartworms,” said Dr. Bodenhorst. “Also, heartworm meds will treat intestinal parasites as well, so that’s another reason to keep treating year round.”

For some, all these winter woes are worrisome. You and your pet are probably anxious to put the season behind us.

Others embrace the thrill of the big chill. And you’ve probably got all the gear to prove it.

Well, enjoy! Because no matter what side of the snow fort you’re on, before we know it, Punxsutawney Phil’s predictions will be a distant memory and we’ll soon be watching the white stuff melt away.

IMG_0555Courtesy Kristen Quon for

In the meantime, let’s make as many footprints (alongside those paw prints!) as possible.

What’s your favorite winter activity with your pooch? And please let us know about any great pet products for the season that you think we should know about!

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2 thoughts on “Potentially deadly winter danger for your pets

  1. VERY interesting. I had no idea so little anti-freeze could be deadly! I would NEVER want my dog outside without me right there, regardless. It breaks my heart to hear the dogs in my neighborhood barking at night this time of year. I just know they’re out there in that cold.

    • It’s definitely a scary thought, Louise. And it only takes a small amount. If those dogs in your neighborhood don’t have adequate shelter, or if the temps dip really low, please let the authorities know!!

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