Winter Health Hazards for Pets
Aging Matters

Cold and frigid weather conditions are hazardous to humans and our pets. Just as we can't leave our pets in a hot car during the summer, a pets' cold tolerance varies in different animals based on their coat, body fat stores, activity level, and health. Be aware of your pet's tolerance for cold weather, and adjust accordingly.

In the very cold weather, shorten your dog's walks to protect you both from weather-associated risks. Arthritic and elderly pets may have more difficulty walking on snow and ice and more prone to slipping and falling. Long-haired or thick-coated dogs are more cold-tolerant, but are still at risk. Short-haired pets feel the cold faster and the short-legged may become cold faster because their bellies and bodies likely come into contact with snow-covered ground.

Pets with diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, or hormonal imbalances have a harder time regulating their body temperature. The same goes for very young and very old pets. If you need help determining your pet's temperature limits, consult your veterinarian. (American Veterinary Medical Association.)

More winter safety tips for pets

  • Car hoods and engines - outdoor and feral cats like to curl up in vehicle engines to stay warm. And if they get trapped under the hood or car, they could get critically injured when the car starts up. Before cranking up, bang on the hood and honk your horn, so the animal hiding inside have time to escape.
  • Chili temperatures - animals can experience hypothermia and frostbite if outside for too long. You can take pets for walks outside, but bring them inside when temperatures start to fall. Short-haired pets may need a sweater or jacket.
  • Antifreeze - The substance smells and tastes yummy to animals, so they may be tempted by any spills or leaks. Be sure to clean up spills or leaks so your pet doesn't lick them up, and look for products with propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol, a chemical that's still toxic, but safer. If exposed see your veterinarian right away.
  • Carbon monoxide - poisonous to both humans and animals. Fires, car exhaust, generators, unventilated furnaces and gas water heaters can emit the gas.
  • Ice-melting salt irritates a pet's paws and fatal if ingested.
  • Candles - cats and dogs are curious enough that they may swat at candles or try to touch them, burning themselves in the process.
  • Under the table bites - it's impossible to keep pets away from the delicious holiday food, but a bite or two here and there could cause more harm than you think. Avoid feeding pets chocolate, citrus plants, coconut, grapes, raisins, and dairy products. (Sharecare.)

Carol Marak, aging advocate, and editor at She's earned a Certificate in the Fundamentals of Gerontology from UC Davis, School of Gerontology.

Part of the Aging Matters Weekly Syndicated Column

Aging Matters is a weekly column tackling everyday challenges that our growing elderly population and their loved ones face. It is also published in a variety of syndication partners including newspapers all over the country.

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