Although Raleigh, North Carolina, is nowhere close to being the coldest state, we occasionally experience some chilly temperatures that can create hazardous situations for your pet, some of which may constitute an emergency. Follow these six tips to avoid your pet ending up in our emergency hospital.

#1: Ensure your pet’s contact info is current

As snow and ice blanket the ground, they also cover familiar scents that could lead your lost pet back home. Your pet may slip out the door during holiday gatherings or when you return home from work, dashing away down the road. If your pet doesn’t wear her collar and identification tags when she is in indoors, ensure she is permanently identified with a microchip, and that you keep your contact information up-to-date.We don’t want a good Samaritan having to bring your lost companion to our emergency hospital. 

#2: Protect your pet from toxic winter chemicals

Ethylene glycol antifreeze products can be lethal for your furry friend, so ensure they are kept out of pets’ reach, or consider switching to pet-safe propylene glycol. In addition to your vehicle, garage, or driveway, your pet may find ethylene glycol in your seasonal snow globes, which can expose your pet to the deadly toxin if they shatter and spill, and should also be kept out of reach of pets. 

This chemical is not the only winter toxin your pet has to watch out for—you must also take precautions with ice-melting salt, as your pet can pick up the chemicals on her paws during her walks, and then lick them off at home. Always choose pet-safe deicing products to protect your pet and others in your neighborhood. 

#3: If it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for your pet

Despite having a fur coat, pets feel the cold almost as intensely as people. Arctic breeds, such as huskies and malamutes, are bred to withstand frigid temperatures, but house pets can become chilled. A trained sled dog can likely handle the cold, but your indoor husky will have a much thinner coat and be less equipped to handle chilly conditions. A good rule of thumb is to bring your pet indoors as soon as you feel chilled. Pets don’t know their own limits, so you must be the voice of reason and bring your furry friend inside to prevent hypothermia and frostbite.

#4: Groom your pet for winter weather

Although winter has settled in, keep up with your pet’s grooming regimen. Skip the short summer cut, but continue brushing regularly to avoid matting and disperse protective oils. Trim short your pet’s feathery fur on her legs and tail to prevent snowballs from forming in the long fur. Also, trim the hair around your pet’s toes and paw pads to provide better traction and deter ice clumps from becoming stuck in her paws. 

With your home’s thermostat cranked up high, you and your pet will likely experience dry, flaky skin. Avoid overbathing, or use a moisturizing shampoo, to maintain your pet’s protective skin oils. Use pet-friendly wipes to freshen up between baths, or if your pet gets muddy, or needs a spot treatment. 

#5: Protect your pet’s paws

In addition to snipping off the extra fluff around your dog’s paws, consider protective booties to help protect her feet and ensure she does not succumb to frostbite, chemical exposure, or cuts from sharp ice fragments. Ensure that the booties fit exactly right—too tight and they’ll cut off circulation, too loose and they’ll slip right off. Booties also provide traction on slippery surfaces, and your dog is less likely to sprain a muscle or injure a leg if she has a good grip on the slick ice and snow.

#6: Watch your pet for signs of hypothermia when outdoors

When enjoying a crisp new snowfall with your furry friend, watch for hypothermia signs. Indications that your pet’s body temperature is dropping include:

  • Shivering
  • Lethargy
  • Pale or blue gums
  • Decreased heart rate
  • Dilated pupils
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Stupor, unconsciousness, or coma

At the first sign of a chilled pet, cut your snowball fight short and head indoors. Dry your pet thoroughly with a hair dryer on a low setting, wrap her snugly in warmed blankets fresh from the dryer, and periodically check her temperature.

Has your pet been enjoying the winter weather a little too much and slipped into trouble? Whether your four-legged friend has taken a spill on some ice, frolicked in the snow too long, or lapped up a puddle of antifreeze, we’re only a phone call away, 24 hours a day.