Winter brings holiday cheer and a fresh coat of snow, but it can also pose health risks for beloved family pets.
My family learned the potential dangers during the holidays the hard way with our dog, Leo. Leo is a 10-year-old whippet, who should have died seven years ago.
That day, we left Leo home while we finished Christmas shopping. Unbeknownst to us, a family member had gifted us two pounds of Sees chocolate that was wrapped and waiting for Christmas morning.
After shopping, we returned home to a chocolate covered dog. Panicking, we called the vet who directed us to make him vomit with a dosage of hydrogen peroxide. Chocolate is a stimulant and makes dog hearts beat too fast and can lead to heart failure. We immediately took Leo to the vet. They discovered that besides the chocolate, Leo had also found and eaten all his Christmas bones – without chewing. One very large pet bill later, Leo was home and safe.
Later, we discovered that Leo had not eaten ALL the chocolate, but hidden pieces around the house – behind pillows, under couch cushions, in laundry baskets, between blankets, tucked in open drawers, etc.
We get a good laugh out of this now, but it taught us a valuable lesson about safety during the holiday season. Here are more tips for happy, healthy dogs this winter season:
- Store food gifts, including stockings, out of reach
- Help dogs avoid holiday weight gain
With the cold weather, most dogs are less active during the winter. Add that to all the available holiday treats and scraps and pets can quickly pack on unhealthy weight. To protect your pet, avoid sharing those table scraps. Instead, offer healthy alternatives, like Healthy Partner Pet Snacks gluten free, all-natural dog treats. Also, some veterinarians recommend reducing pet meal size by 10-30 percent during inactive months. Talk with your vet to see if this is a good idea for your pet.
- Control exposure to cold weather with shorter trips outside
Long exposures to the extreme cold have a negative affect on your dog’s health. Even with a good coat, dogs are susceptible to low temperatures, just like humans. To help protect your dog, limit the time they spend outside. Instead of the usual long walks taken in mild weather, try multiple short walks followed by a play session indoors. Winter is usually when we invest in a few new dog toys and spend extra time training Leo, using his favorite Healthy Partner Pet Snacks.
If the dog is an outdoor dog, make sure his doghouse stays warm. Pad it with straw or invest in a heating unit.
- Beware of cold temperatures in vehicles
It is just as dangerous to leave a dog unattended in the car during winter as during summer. Once an engine is turned off, the car cools quickly, exposing your pet to freezing temperatures. So instead of bringing Fido along for the ride, leave him at home in a warm place.
- Check dogs’ paws during and after walks
There are other dangers to paws besides ice build-up. Dog paws are exposed to salt and other ice-melting materials that cause skin irritation. Check your dog’s paws during and after walks, and wipe off anything that is on the pad. This should limit the paw irritation.
Article written by Melissa Wheeler