The winter storm is an ingrained part of our Canadian winter experience, and as each year passes, we often have a pretty good idea of what to expect! However, as pet owners, there are a few additional considerations we should factor in to ensure we are keeping our four-legged family members safe and warm until the snow lets up.
The most important factors to remember and check on during a storm are temperature, ice, salt, traffic, food & medication, and toxin exposure.
Is your pet warm enough? Short-haired pets who go outside may require a jacket in the winter (even without a storm!) to ensure they don't get too cold. Time outside may need to be limited. Inside the home, is there a blanket or bed for them to lay on so they stay off the cold floor? Are you transporting a cat or small mammal such as a bunny in a carrier? They may need extra blankets overtop and/or inside the carrier to stay warm and dry. Remember, feet get cold too! Considering using lined booties such as Muttluks, or putting baby socks on their feet underneath balloon-style booties such as Pawz.
Fluctuating temperatures during and after a storm can cause the top layer of snow to turn into an icy crust, and this can cut pet paws. Assess your environment before letting your dog run in an off-leash area, and take care when walking, as they can slip just like us and pull a muscle! If you have a smaller animal such as a cat or a rabbit, exercise caution when transporting them in their carrier, as you may feel off-balance and more prone to slipping.
Us city-dwellers here in Toronto know that by the time a storm is over, there's often more salt than snow! Make sure on your canine companions that you wipe down paw pads, and chunks of rock salt aren't trapped between toes. This can cause drying and cracking, as well as discomfort and limping. Salt can also lower the freezing temperature of water, meaning slushy areas can be much colder than snow or ice, so take extra care to avoid these areas.
Whether you're driving or navigating the sidewalks, we can all agree traffic grinds to a halt during a storm. Ensure carriers being transported in vehicles are strapped in securely, and larger dogs in harnesses are securely fastened with a seatbelt. If walking a dog or with a pet carrier, remember visibility can be significantly reduced: always cross at crosswalks and obey pedestrian signals. Look for traffic even if the light is green, in case a vehicle is having trouble braking for a red light.
Food & Medication
Do you recall the Montreal Ice Storm of 1998? The Great Power Outage of 2003? These events wreaked havoc on the day-to-day activities of businesses and families alike. For days, deliveries were delayed, stores were unable to operate, and homes went without power. Making sure you have a surplus of your pet's food and medication is essential to being prepared, in case we find ourselves on the receiving end of one of these events once again!
When mother nature throws a storm at us, we don't always fight fair. Anti-freeze, lock de-icer, salt, and other ice melt products are all toxic to our dear pets. Ensure anything you use is locked up or stored away safely, and that your pet doesn't have any access to neighbors' supplies either. If you have a dog off-leash, ensure they're in eyesight at all times to reduce the likelihood of unknown ingestion.
Winter is a beautiful yet dangerous time, but with the right precautions, we can feel safe and prepared, and enjoy this beautiful world to the fullest.