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Winter Pet Dangers

January 1, 2014

The temperatures drop, the snow is falling… how do you keep your pet safe and happy during the winter months? Here, a West Greenwich veterinarian discusses a few of the winter hazards that face our pets, and advises you on avoiding them.

Frostbite and Hypothermia

If your pet stays out in the cold weather too long, frostbite and hypothermia are two serious concerns. Pet’s extremities, like their paws and ears, are susceptible to frostbite, and any pet that stays out in freezing temperatures could get hypothermia. The best way to avoid both is to keep your pet inside, only letting him out for short periods of time to play or use the bathroom. Contact your veterinarian immediately if you suspect either of these cold-temperature concerns are afflicting your pet.

Deep Snow

Some pets, especially dogs, may love romping around in the snow. Beware, however, of deep snowbanks. Even athletic dogs could exhaust themselves trudging through thick patches. Keep your pet away from deep snow and assist them in moving through the white stuff.


If your pet runs across an icy patch, they could slip and hyperextend a limb, tear a muscle, or strain a ligament. If the ice is on stairs or other raised areas, a pet could slip and fall, resulting in serious injury. Avoid icy patches whenever possible and call your vet immediately if an accident does occur.


We put antifreeze in our car engines during the winter. Unfortunately, antifreeze contains ethylene glycol, a sweet-tasting substance that is highly toxic to pets. Keep your pet inside when putting antifreeze in your engine, and seal and store the container properly. Clean up any antifreeze spills immediately, and rush your pet to your West Greenwich veterinary hospital immediately if ingestion does happen.

Road Salt and De-Icers

If your pet is spending time outdoors this winter, take care that he doesn’t ingest any road salt—the salt itself will upset your pet’s stomach, and it could be mixed with harmful chemicals. De-icer products that melt ice may also be poisonous to pets, so avoid icy patches or areas where chemicals have been used.

Our Advice on Winter Pet Dangers in 2024

What are the dangers of frostbite and hypothermia for pets during winter?

During winter, frostbite and hypothermia pose severe risks to pets. Frostbite can affect a pet’s extremities, like paws and ears, as they are vulnerable to freezing temperatures. This can lead to tissue damage and pain. Hypothermia occurs when a pet’s body temperature drops dangerously low, causing shivering, lethargy, and, in severe cases, organ failure or death. Both conditions are more likely if pets are exposed to cold weather for extended periods. To keep pets safe, it’s crucial to limit their time outdoors in freezing conditions, provide shelter, and use protective clothing if necessary. If you suspect frostbite or hypothermia, consult a vet promptly.

How can you prevent frostbite and hypothermia in pets during the cold weather?

During the winter months, frostbite and hypothermia are significant concerns for pets. Frostbite can affect their extremities like paws and ears, while hypothermia can occur if they stay out in freezing temperatures for too long. To prevent these issues, limit your pet’s exposure to the cold, provide a warm shelter, use protective clothing when necessary, and keep them dry. Short outdoor breaks for play and bathroom needs are ideal. Be vigilant for signs of discomfort, such as shivering, and bring them indoors promptly if you notice any. If you suspect frostbite or hypothermia, consult a veterinarian immediately for proper care.

What risks does ice pose to pets, and how can accidents be prevented?

Ice poses several risks to pets during winter. Pets can slip on icy surfaces, leading to injuries like hyperextended limbs, muscle tears, or ligament strains. In worst cases, they can fall from elevated areas, causing severe harm. To prevent accidents, avoid icy patches, keep pets away from frozen surfaces, and use non-toxic ice melt products. Provide sturdy footwear for dogs in icy conditions to enhance traction. Supervise pets closely during walks, especially near stairs or slippery areas. Taking these precautions can significantly reduce the risk of injuries caused by icy conditions.

Why is antifreeze a threat to pets, and what precautions should be implemented to safeguard them?

Antifreeze poses a danger to pets due to its inclusion of ethylene glycol, a sweet-tasting but potentially lethal substance if consumed by animals. Even a small quantity can result in kidney failure and fatality in pets. Keeping pets indoors while handling antifreeze in your vehicle is essential to safeguard them. Additionally, ensure that antifreeze containers are tightly sealed and stored securely to avoid spills. Promptly clean up any spills that do occur. If you suspect your pet has ingested antifreeze, seek immediate veterinary assistance. Early intervention is critical as it can prevent the severe and often fatal consequences of antifreeze poisoning in pets.

What are the potential risks of road salt and de-icers to pets?

Road salt and de-icers pose potential risks to pets due to their toxicity and abrasive qualities. When ingested, road salt can upset a pet’s stomach, leading to gastrointestinal distress. Additionally, these substances may contain harmful chemicals that can be toxic to pets if consumed. Pets walking on treated surfaces can also develop skin irritations or chemical burns on their paws and underbellies. To protect your pet, avoid areas where road salt and de-icers have been used, and wash their paws after outdoor walks. It’s essential to be vigilant during the winter months to ensure your pet’s safety and well-being.

Please feel free to contact us, your local animal clinic in West Greenwich, RI!

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