Keeping Pets Safe During Cold Winter Months

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As most of Ontario continues to experience extreme cold temperatures, it’s critical to understand the risks that freezing temperatures can have on the health and safety of pets, how to recognize signs of an animal in distress, and who to call if you see a pet in danger.

“The extreme cold poses danger for humans and pets alike. In some cases, cold weather can be life-threatening,” said Solicitor General Sylvia Jones. “We strongly urge everyone to take the necessary precautions to keep your pets safe and protected during frigid cold temperatures – by limiting their time outdoors, using a coat when walking and wiping their paws to remove any salt or other chemicals.”

While there are some dog breeds that thrive in colder weather, most cats, dogs and other pets left out in the cold are at risk of hypothermia, frostbite on their ears, paws and tails, serious illness or even death. Whenever possible, pets should be kept indoors in extreme weather. If they are kept outside, make sure they have some sort of shelter that’s free from drafts, well-insulated and has sufficient bedding to keep them safe and comfortable. It is important to check on your pet regularly during adverse weather to ensure they are safe.

In addition to cold temperatures, it’s important to be aware of other risks and environmental hazards that can be dangerous to pets in the winter. Some tips to keep pets happy and safe this winter include:

  • Keeping toxic chemicals like anti-freeze or windshield-wiper fluid out of a pet’s reach, as it can be lethal
  • Protecting pets from salt used to de-ice roads, because it can irritate paws and be harmful if ingested. Wipe off their feet and stomach when you get home to ensure any salt or other chemicals are removed
  • Never let them walk on frozen bodies of water, as falling through thin or cracked ice can pose life-threatening risks to humans and animals such as hypothermia or drowning
  • When walking your dog, consider giving them a winter coat to help retain body heat, particularly for small dogs, elderly dogs, puppies and short-haired dogs, as they are more vulnerable to cold temperatures
  • Don’t leave your cat or dog alone in a cold car, because this could lead to hypothermia and potential death
  • Feed your pet a bit more during winter months, as it takes extra energy to stay warm

If members of the public see an animal in critical distress and are concerned the animal’s life is in immediate danger, they should call 911 right away.

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