Keeping your pets safe during the winter months

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — With the recent record-breaking temperatures and snowfall across central Ohio, many of us had to dust off the winter gear earlier than expected. It's also time to make sure you're keeping your pets safe during the extreme cold and inclement weather.

10TV stopped by the Ohio State Veterinary Medical Center on Wednesday to speak with Doctor Edward Cooper, Head of Small Animal & Critical Care, on what we need to know in order to keep our pets safe during the cold weather.

"Yes, they have fur, but just like a jacket, it only protects them so much," said Dr. Edward Cooper. He said once temperatures get below freezing, you need to limit your time outside and keep a close eye on them while they are out and about."

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Symptoms to look out for in the cold weather with your pet:

  • Pets picking up their feet while outside
  • Shivering and shaking
  • Huddling close to you while outside

Dr. Cooper said these are the messages your dog is trying to say to you that it's too cold for them. Dr. Cooper said in the winter months, they get people who bring in animals that have hypothermia. He also said that cold contact the animals have with the ground can in some cases cause frostbite.

Your dogs tolerance to the cold weather also depends on your breed, so make sure you listen to your dogs and monitor how they're acting in the cold weather. If you have a short-hair breed, Dr. Cooper said that a coat or sweater for your pet helps, but that doesn't mean you should stay outside longer.

And with the recent snow, many areas now have salt on the ground.

"When the pet comes back inside, in can be helpful to wipe their feet off with a damp cloth to get the salt off of their paws." Dr. Cooper says that it can cause irritation and if left untreated, dogs will lick and chew salt debris off their paws, which can cause irritation to their intestinal tract.

Another item that gets used a lot in the colder months is Anti-Freeze.

"It actually tastes very sweet, so once they get to it, they're inclined to drink it, but very small amounts can be potentially toxic and even fatal for the pet," Dr. Cooper said.

He stressed that this is something that still happens quite often and that you need to keep your Anti-Freeze or Coolant products in a secure location away from your pets. There are also eco-friendly and pet safe Anti-freeze products on the market that would be a great alternative.

Some other tips and advice from Dr. Cooper:

  • With the recent time change and how dark it gets in the evening, wear reflective/bright apparel for both you and your pet.
  • Always walk your dog with a lead, especially when you're out in the evening hours.
  • With temperatures below freezing at night, bring your animals inside.
  • If you cannot bring your animals inside your home, bring them into a garage or warm, enclosed structure that is blocking the wind and cold air.
  • If you see a stray animal out in the cold, please contact your local shelter or authority.

10TV also stopped by Goodale Park and saw many dogs out enjoying the snow and colder weather. Deb Colvin-Tener was out walking her French bulldog earlier this afternoon.

"I make sure she's bundled up and warm, but she loves playing in the snow," she said.

Colvin-Tener said that the little boots dogs wear don't work for her pup, but she applies a special product to the bottom of her dog's feet to help keep ice, salt and snow out of her paws.

"I make sure we avoid walking on the salt and we also clean her feet once we get back inside from our walks."

Colvin-Tener said during extreme cold, she keeps her walks much shorter.

Regardless of the weather, it's important to always keep an eye on your pets and make sure they're comfortable outside.