Vail Valley Animal Hospital Center and Mountain Mobile Veterinary Services discuss Winter Hazards for your pets

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Vail Valley Animal Hospital Center and Mountain Mobile Veterinary Services discuss Winter Hazards for your pets

Winter is officially here in the Vail Valley, and as the snow begins to fall, all of us are anxious to get outside with our pets and enjoy our winter surroundings.

Unfortunately, with winter, comes cold weather, chilly rain and sleet, all which can cause chapped or even lacerated paws, flaking skin, as well as other unforeseen hazards to our pets. As your Vail Valley Veterinarian and Mobile Veterinarian, we want to warn you that your joyful winter walk can quickly turn into an emergency visit to the veterinarian as our pets can be exposed to the dangers of the cold.

There are many cold weather dangers to be aware of for your pets.

First of all, “cold” itself is hazardous to pets, resulting in hypothermia, disorientation, and death. As soon as the outdoor temperature drops below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, your pets should be brought indoors. Young pets such as puppies and kittens, as well as short-haired pets, especially should not be left outside for any extended period of time, should the temperature drop below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and should be provided with protective gear as well as “boots” should you plan on staying out despite the temperatures. Be aware that pets that are not properly groomed, like long haired pets that are heavily matted, cannot properly keep themselves warm either, so proper and regular grooming is imperative in keeping your pet safe this winter. In addition, pets with underlying medical conditions, as well as geriatric pets, are more susceptible to the cold and often times the cold can exacerbate underlying disease processes. Please be advised, that putting your pet in a cold car is not protecting it from the cold, as a cold car can become a “refrigerator” for your pet, again resulting in a potentially deadly outcome.

Secondly, chemicals utilized during the winter months can also prove to be hazardous to your pets. For example, Anti-Freeze, also referred to as ethylene glycol, is highly toxic to your pets and can cause renal failure in pets leading to death . Too often, people are quick to leave anti-freeze in the garage, where there is easy access for pets to get to it, and it’s “sweet” taste can result in quick ingestion.  In addition, certain brands of snow melt can become attached to your pet’s paws , and upon licking also cause skin and mouth irritation, excessive drooling, vomiting and toxicity if consumed at a high enough level.

Be safe and leave your antifreeze out of reach of your pets in a safe place, and gently clean your pet’s paws off immediately after any exposure to ice melt, to assure no further problems arise.


Thirdly, there are many “indoor” winter hazards for pets as well. Space heaters, wood-burning stoves and fireplaces can cause severe burns. Younger pets such as puppies and kittens, can easily knock objects over and directly into these heat sources, resulting in house fires. Thus, Puppy and kitten proofing areas around these heat sources is critical! In addition, candles which are burning can easily be an attraction for young pets, then quickly result in their fur catching fire. Again, protect your pets by keeping these heat sources at a safe distance.

Fourth,  many folks love to ski and snowboard with their pets during these great winter days. Unfortunately, a very common hazard we come upon is lacerated tendons and pads from the pet running in front of the skier or boarder, and it quickly becomes an emergency for your pet as they are unable to avoid that ski or board going over the top of them. Be safe when you ski or board! Travel at slower speeds and be sure your pet is at a safe distance at all times .


Finally, consider keeping your pets on a leash during the winter months. Too often we hear of Lost pets who are never found because they have wandered off in the cold temperatures, or even fallen in a lake or pond and were unable to get out safely.

Most importantly, be smart and be safe ! Enjoy your winter with your pet

We look forward to seeing you!