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Some Surprising Dangers for Pets in Winter


Some pet dangers are obvious. Some take a bit of thought to anticipate but can still represent a threat.
If you’re reading this, chances are you pay attention to your pet’s safety year around, including in winter.

The sad truth is that those who most need to know pet safety are unlikely to read articles like this. Some pet owners even don’t care.

But it’s also true that each year thousands of pets are injured or killed because their owner didn’t realize the threat of a pet danger. So, if you’re still reading, here are a few tips that are particularly relevant during cold weather that may surprise you:

Many people invest in a humidifier to make their furnace-dried heat more comfortable for themselves. But most pets, and especially certain birds, can also be harmed by air that’s too dry, sometimes seriously harmed.

Think about it this way, if you have a bird that comes from a tropical climate – think jungle humidity – and the bird is suddenly plopped down in a desert, how to you think it would do? Hint: poorly is the correct answer.

Birds have extremely sensitive respiratory systems so anything that disrupts or affects that is a potential threat. A burning candle or fireplace, a drafty window or even your furnace battling single-digit outdoor temperatures can and do threaten your pet.

Birds aren’t alone here, however. Dogs, cats and other mammals are usually more robust, but like humans they can be affected negatively by dry air, for example. Itchy, flaking skin is a common symptom that can be irritating if not serious.

Dogs and cats that come and go from the outdoors need additional care. Taking a dog for a walk in cold weather can be a great idea, but it’s a good idea to wipe paws to remove any ice-melting chemicals or other substances that could pose a threat if the pet licks his or her paws. The same is true of the pet’s stomach fur if he or she is built low to the ground and might pick up chemicals or, at least, ice balls. It might be a good idea to treat paw pads with Vaseline or another protection before a walk.

Sometimes the need to keep pets warms gets tricky. Especially in climates that see highly erratic temperatures in winter, it’s easy to be lulled into thinking grooming that leaves your poodle looking like a lion is potentially dangerous. Lions are not likely to see 35-degree temperatures but your poodle naturally grows that fur to stay warm. You’ve just taken his or her down jacket and left it on the groomer’s floor.

Back at the birdcage, a simple trick might be life saving: sit near to the cage with a bowl of water. Dip a finger (or even a hand) in the water then hold it in the air for a while. Feel any breezes? If you do, it’s likely your bird does, too, and it could lead to problems. Be especially alert to furnace outlets and sit long enough to test the airflow when the furnace is on and off.

There are an almost endless number of potential threats for even hearty, healthy pets. Hopefully this short list will help you think of the unique dangers that might impact your pet in your particularly environment.

Just remember, your pet is not well equipped to tell you it has a problem, let alone analysis the danger. So it’s up to you to protect your pet!