Ask the Emergency Veterinarian – How Do I Keep My Pet Safe in Winter?

It’s very important as the temperatures dip, that all pet owners take some basic precautions for keeping their four-legged friends safe. SCARS asked Edmonton Veterinary Emergency Clinic’s Dr. Chris Sauvé to provide some helpful winter weather advice to pet-owners.

1) What are some important tips to care for my pet in winter weather?

The winter season presents many unique challenges to pets and their owners.  Some of the obvious challenges are navigating the subzero temperatures and snow. Ensure that your pets have appropriate shelter and adequate water available. A heated water source is ideal for outdoor animals.

2) What about Christmas?

With the winter months comes the holiday season. You should always avoid the temptation to feed “people food” to your pets.

Also, take some time to research which indoor house plants are toxic. The big two at Christmas are poinsettias and lilies. Many of these seasonal plants are toxic, so just avoid these hazards by using artificial substitutes.

Finally, be careful when filling your car coolant. Ingestion of antifreeze from spilled or leaking coolant is an extremely serious issue for pets and requires immediate emergency attention.

3) What should I do if my pet eats something toxic?

If your animal is symptomatic—or is demonstrating signs of toxicity—such as vomiting, diarrhea, no appetite, behavior change, go to your emergency veterinarian as soon as possible. If you are not sure about whether something is toxic, call the Animal Poison Control Center (1-888-426-4435) for information and a recommendation on what to do.

4) If I find an injured animal, what should I do?

If you find an injured animal, your best option is to call your local veterinarian for recommendations before acting. Certain areas of Alberta have organizations and trained personnel that help pick up these animals. Injured animals in the Edmonton-area can be brought to Edmonton Veterinarian’s Emergency Clinic for care, if the City of Edmonton’s Animal Control Centre is closed.

EVEC is the only animal clinic in Edmonton that accepts stray animals after-hours for transfer to Animal Control.

5) How do I know if my pet is experiencing a health emergency? When do I know it’s serious? 

This is a difficult question to answer because sometimes the signs are less obvious. The first rule is that if your pet is displaying trauma-symptoms, bleeding, difficulty breathing, seizures, toxin ingestion, vomiting and diarrhea, then immediate treatment is required. Do not wait until morning, EVEC is open 24/7 for emergency cases.

There are less apparent signs that often cause pet owners to worry. Signs like lethargy, low appetite or the classic “ain’t doing right” behaviour changes. My recommendation is that you seek veterinary attention the moment you recognize a problem. Many serious health issues initiate as mild, non-specific signs but they can escalate very quickly.

Addressing a problem early can be crucial to your pet’s health and sometimes their life!

Have a safe, fun holiday season!

Dr. Christopher Sauvé DVM
Edmonton Veterinarians’ Emergency Clinic