Cold Weather Warnings

Cold Weather Warnings

Cold Weather Warnings – I’ve been asked today to put a few tips together regarding the cold weather and dangers this presents so here’s a few thoughts on the subject:

Grit/Salt on the roads

When its icy and snowy the ground becomes very dangerous and to combat that our local councils tend to scatter grit/salt across the surfaces of roads and pavements to help us with our footing.  While this is very helpful to us as bipeds with poor balancing skills, it can pose a couple of problems to our four-legged friends – including CATS!

1)  The salt, if left on the pads of the paws can burn and cause irritation.

2)  When the animal licks his paws to remove the salt he will ingest it and this can be extremely toxic and may poison the animal.  As the salt levels within the body increase, the kidneys will be put under extreme pressure to try to remove the salt from the body and can, in severe circumstances, prove fatal.

PLEASE WASH THEIR PAWS on return from your walk or if the cat has been out.  While I am sure they may well not like having their paws washed, it is most certainly preferable to the alternative.


Frozen Lakes/Ponds:

While out walking your dog around bodies of water in very cold temperatures, it is a good idea to keep them on a lead.  Should the dog stray onto a frozen lake or pond and go through the ice, he is at very real risk of hypothermia (click this link for our hypothermia blog: Hypothermia blog) which could well prove fatal.  Should this happen please DO NOT go into the water yourself to try to rescue him.  Call him to you encouragingly but STAY ON THE BANK in safety.  Telephone the emergency services immediately and ask for the Fire Department.

If the dog does manage to get out of the water, it is essential to dry him thoroughly as quickly as possible.  It is impossible for him to get his body temperature back up if he is wet.  Please do not try to bring his temperature up by placing him in a hot bath or using hot water bottles directly on him as this could well burn him and send him into shock. Hypothermia is very low body temperature.  Once the temperature reaches a low level, it continues to fall quite rapidly and is very difficult to reverse.  For this reason, take no chances and call the vet if:-

– he has been in the water/remained cold & wet for any length of time

– he is old, very young, or has been ill recently

– he is not responding to warmth and drying

Click here for our blog on drowning: ( Drowning blog)


Toxic/Poisonous winter substances

Along with the bad weather also comes the need for the motorist to do all he can to keep his car on the road.  The cold plays havoc with windscreen washing as the water often freezes in the pipes before it hits the glass.  To get around this it is common place to add screenwash specifically designed not to freeze until exceedingly low temperatures.  It is very easy for a motorist to spill some of the screenwash as he tries to top up his washer bottle, allowing the chemicals to drip onto the surface of the drive, pavement or road.  Obviously the chemicals in such formulas are strong and will do our furry friends no good at all if they a) lick the fluid or b) lick their paws having walked through it.  (The same is true of antifreeze radiator coolant fluids).

Screen Wash/Degreaser:

If the chemical is on the dog’s coat or paws (perhaps through walking through it), apart from the risk of absorption through the skin, there is also the risk of secondary poisoning due to ingestion of the chemical as the dog tries to lick his coat clean.  Signs resulting from poisoning with this type of product include inflamed skin, vomiting, diarrhoea, convulsions and ulcers on the tongue.

Do not make the dog vomit

– Ensure the dog discontinues licking ASAP

– Wear gloves when cleansing the contaminant away

– Clean in/around the mouth with water

– Do not allow the dog to swallow the cleaning water

– Clean the fur thoroughly with soap/water

– Contact the vet immediately

– Monitor Airway, breathing & circulation

– Be ready to step in and perform CPR or artificial respiration as required.



Antifreeze can be dangerous in three ways either by absorption through the skin should the dog walk through it, say from a dripping car radiator, from secondary ingestion should the animal try to lick his coat clean, and by primary ingestion if the dog should come across the antifreeze itself and lick it (Antifreeze is sweet and is very appealing to dogs – apparently, they just love the taste of it!)  Antifreeze can cause convulsions, collapse, coma and may even be fatal so swift action is required.


– Administer an emetic ASAP (Either with a crystal of washing soda or rock salt)

– Ensure the dog discontinues licking ASAP

– Wear gloves when cleansing the contaminant away

– Clean in/around the mouth with water

– Ensure the dog does not swallow the cleaning water

– Clean the fur thoroughly with soap/water

– Contact the vet and transport Immediately to the surgery

– Make a note of the time it occurred

– Monitor Airway, breathing & ciruclation

– Be ready to step in and perform CPR or artificial respiration as required.

Consideration should also be given to the use of VODKA as a possible aid to treatment.  Ideally this should be administered intravenously (IV) by your vet but a measure of vodka to drink as a non-prescription treatment to get things underway certainly wont do any harm.

Please make sure you know how much you have given the dog so you can tell the vet when you arrive as it may alter his dosage and treatment of your pet.  Also, please take a bottle of vodka with you if you have it, just in case the vet does not have any on site when you arrive and would like to use this method to help your dog.