Winter poses dangers to pets
December 1, 2003
Some Summit County pets may not greet the season with the same enthusiasm. Many winter activities are mutually enjoyable for pet and owner, but some winter pet pitfalls require caution.Thin ice on waterways poses particular dangers to pets, as Breckenridge residents Jim and Adrian Celoft discovered last week.The couple was walking their two malamutes near Tiger Road, when one of the dogs ran out onto a beaver pond and broke through the ice.”He thought it would be fun to go out on the ice – they both love to jump into streams,” Adrian Celoft said. “He was finally able to get out, but he struggled for a while. My husband said, “There was a moment I thought I was going to have to go in and get him.’ And he’s 71.”It was really traumatic. We weren’t being too smart.”To prevent similar disasters, or even drownings, it’s important to keep dogs on leashes around bodies of water, especially when they’re covered with snow.Skiing and boarding with dogs in tow is another potentially dangerous activity.”We see quite a few dogs come in with injuries to lower extremities, from ski and board edges,” said Denisa Court, veterinarian at the Frisco Animal Hospital. “We see everything from minor injuries to complete tendon tears.”Long skiing or hiking excursions can also result in pet dehydration. Many pet owners think of dehydration only as a summer problem for pets.Not so, Court said.”On a long hike, or on any long cross country ski, a dog will eat snow, but that’s not enough water for hydration. If you’re out for a long time, you should bring water.”According to Court, owners also need to keep a close eye on the temperature when their dogs are outside in winter weather.Many high country dog owners have arctic breeds that like to be outside in cold weather. But other breeds, without such a heavy undercoat or fat layer, are at greater risk of hypothermia.”If it’s freezing, you don’t want to leave any dog outside,” Court said.Cats left outdoors in cold weather may seek warmth from car engines, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association – or, AVMA.”Be sure to check under the hood before starting your vehicle and honk the horn to startle any animals seeking shelter inside,” said AVMA veterinarian Gail Golab.Winter also presents a few risks to pets’ paws.Dogs with furry feet, such as golden retrievers, can get clumps of snow and ice caught between their paws when playing outside in the snow, which can cause pain and discomfort.Court suggests using snow booties for susceptible dogs, or quickly soaking the animal’s feet in warm water.Many pet stores carry a fast-drying wax that protects paws from snowballs, but doesn’t stick to carpets or furniture.Deicers are another threat to pet paws for both dogs and cats.”Here at the hospital, we use a salt that’s safe for paws. Using it on your front walk fairly frequently can reduce irritation to the bottoms of paws,” Court said.Paw-safe salts are available at area stores, including Bed Bath & Beyond.Julie Sutor can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 203, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.