Icy warnings for pet owners this winter

As temperatures drop, experts at the Linnaeus’ Group warns pet owners about some of the unique dangers that winter brings.

One of the most overlooked is antifreeze, which can be to fatal dogs and cats, even after only a small amount has been licked. It smells and tastes sweet, (to them it tastes like lemonade) so may be irresistible to pets who most often come across it after it is leaked from a car radiator or been spilt after refilling screen wash.  

Dr Mark Taylor Linnaeus’ Primary Care Medical Director says: “Many people do not realise how toxic antifreeze is and, unfortunately, it also tastes sweet, which can prove attractive to pets. Cats are particularly susceptible, as they drink from puddles and gutters, with fatal consequences. We’re also urging pet owners not to leave any bottles of antifreeze unattended and to wash away any spillages as soon as possible to protect both their own pets and any other passing animals. It’s also sensible to ensure dogs do not sniff and lick around puddles or damp spots on roads and pavements where it looks as though as a car has recently been parked, as it’s quite likely de-icer may have been sprayed around the area. If you suspect your pet has ingested antifreeze or de-icer, please get in touch with your veterinarian as soon as possible, as it really can prove a potentially life-threatening situation for animals.” 

If you notice any liquids by your car, keep your dog away and clean it up immediately. If they’ve walked through any, then wash their paws with soap and water straight away. If you think your dog has licked, drank or been in contact with antifreeze, contact your veterinarian immediately. 

The quicker your dog is treated the better. Additional things to be aware of during winter walks with dogs:  

HypothermiaVery low temperatures and cold wind can quickly lower your dog’s s body temperature, causing frostbite and/or hypothermia. Most dogs will be fine outside as they are, but if it’s very cold, or if you’re spending a bit longer outdoors, then you might want to consider getting them a coat and some protection for their paws. Every dog is different, but some dogs may be more at risk from cold weather, particularly small, slim, very young or older dogs, or those with short hair.  

FrostbiteIn extremely cold weather, when out for a walk, it’s important that you keep a close eye on their paws. Ice and snow can stick to the fur between their pads and ball-up. This increases their risk of frostbite. If your dog lifts their paws, stops walking or whines, it could be a sign that their paws are too cold. Much like humans, when cold, a dog’s body limits blood flow to their extremities and instead, uses it to keep their vital organs warm. This puts extremities at risk of damage. So, on very cold days, try to keep the time they spend outside to a minimum and consider using a coat or paw protectors to keep them warm. If you’re concerned about them having frostbite, contact your veterinarian immediately. 

Road Grit – Recently gritted surfaces can be harmful to dogs when it gets stuck in their paws, causing soreness, redness or cracking and may contain salt or other chemicals that can cause further irritation. If licked in large amounts, the salt in road grit can be harmful, so wipe your dog’s paws after walks in gritted areas. You may also want to consider using protective booties for your dog. If you suspect your dog may have eaten rock salt, contact your veterinarian immediately. 

Reflective Clothing – Road traffic accidents are common in the winter and there are a number of steps you can take to make you and your dog more visible at night. As evenings get darker earlier, remember to keep you and your dog safe by wearing reflective clothing and using bright or reflective collars or light up leads.