Keep Pets Safe during Winter Months

By Dr. Ed Mapes
Stonebridge Animal Hospital
McKinney, TX

Cold temperatures have the most severe effect on animals that are old, very young, or have medical problems, as they are less able to produce heat for warmth. Dehydration and circulatory problems affect many older pets, making them more susceptible to the cold. Be aware that water in outdoor bowls will freeze, leaving pets without anything to drink in cold weather.animal medical center mckinney Keep pets indoors as much as possible. Cats left outside, especially at night, will seek warmth and shelter. An obvious cozy place is atop the car engine that remains warm after use. Cats crawl onto the engine and fall asleep only to be awakened the next morning by the terror of a fan blade tearing into their flesh. Wounds from car engines have been among the most gruesome wounds I’ve ever treated at our animal medical center McKinney; damage includes fractured bones, lacerated spleens, ripped skin, punctured lungs, etc. Just as a precaution, it’s a good idea to rap on your car’s hood before turning the ignition key whenever temperatures are cold.

The use of salt on porches, walkways and driveways causes inflammation of the feet (pododermatitis) for animals. Pododermatitis can be seen in outdoor pets that have been walking on sidewalks that were recently sprinkled with salt. Because of the inflammation, animals often lick excessively at their paws, which paradoxically increases the inflammation and leads to more serious problems such as infection. The paws will appear red, may seem warm to the touch, and will obviously be painful. Washing the paws with mild soap and warm water is curative in the early stages, but a visit to an animal medical center McKinney will be warranted in more chronic cases with advanced symptoms. Pododermatitis affects dogs more commonly than cats; dogs with lots of hair on their feet (like Cocker Spaniels) are prime candidates.

Many animals have various arthritic conditions in their spinal bones and various joints. These are usually large breed dogs, middle-aged or older, that are often quite capable of coping with minor or intermittent discomfort during warm weather. Cold temperatures, however, can lead to diminished joint fluid and muscle rigidity, and “warming up” takes longer in the morning. It becomes more difficult to loosen up and return to a normal gait.

At our animal medical center McKinney, sometimes we see cases of acute pain in animals that lose their footing on snow or ice. They may either exacerbate an existing condition or cause a new problem. It is amazing that a small, seemingly insignificant misadventure on a slippery surface can result in such serious damage in these patients.

Besides pain, there may be a lack of sensory feedback from the legs (proprioceptive deficit), weakness (paresis), or even paralysis. At our animal medical center McKinney, we take a thorough history of the disorder, do a complete physical examination, perform nerve reflex tests, and get radiographs to diagnose the exact disorder. A variety of treatment protocols can be used based on the diagnosis. Treatment can range from simple rest to surgical intervention.

With these potential hazards in mind, please take the necessary steps to keep your pets safe and happy during the cold winter months.

animal medical center mckinney
Stonebridge Animal Hospital
5913 Virginia Parkway
McKinney, Texas 75071

Photo Credit: @DepositPhotos/ e l l e m a r i e n

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