As meteorologists are predicting a potentially wild winter due to a projected split in the polar vortex, veterinarians from across the U.S. are urging pet owners to take precautions to ensure their pets remain safe during dangerous winter conditions.

According to meteorologists, an unusual warming event in the stratosphere has suddenly started to take place near the North Pole. The stratosphere has reportedly warmed 30 degrees in that region during the past two weeks, and according to meteorologists, that warming could force cooler air further south than usual, causing intense blizzards and snowfall in areas where it is rarely experienced.

“While many people may be prepared for winter conditions when it comes to their pets, more than 11 million pets have been adopted since the start of Covid, and many of those new pet owners may not be aware of the additional dangers posed by winter conditions,” said Dr. Jeff Werber, Airvet’s Chief Veterinary Officer.  “We hope these simple tips will help pet parents to avoid a trip to the emergency vet this winter, and if something does happen, we hope they’ll get help immediately or use an app like Airvet if they can’t get to a veterinarian.”

According to Werber:

  • Use pet-friendly deicers. Many deicers used for sidewalks and driveways are not pet friendly, so ensure the deicers you’re using are safe for your furry family members.
  • Pets are capable of experiencing frostbite. Dogs and cats, which are exposed to intense freezing temperatures for too long can develop frostbite. Make sure pets are only let outside briefly to relieve themselves and brought back inside immediately after they’re finished to prevent injury. Pets that are shivering, or if their tail, feet or ears show signs of turning pale, white or redness, these symptoms could be signs of frostbite.
  • Just like when it’s summertime, never leave pets alone in a vehicle. Freezing conditions can cause hypothermia or even death.
  • When starting a vehicle, make sure your garage door is open and check to make sure animals are not near your engine, as they can be attracted to warmth. Gas or diesel vehicles started in a closed garage can cause death by carbon monoxide poisoning, even if it’s just for a few minutes.
  • Coolant leaks in vehicles can occur more often during cold weather and antifreeze is highly toxic to pets. Dogs and cats are often drawn to the sweet taste and smell. If you believe your pet may have been exposed to antifreeze, contact a veterinarian immediately, ingestion would absolutely qualify as an emergency.
  • Make sure pets have access to water at all times. Water left outside can freeze and be impossible or difficult for pets to drink. Make sure pets are brought indoors during freezing conditions and that they have access to plenty of water.
  • Because rodents are attracted to the warmth of homes during winter months, poisonous rodenticides are often used. These rodenticides are deadly to pets and should be kept entirely out of reach from pets. Consider a trap or a different means of pest control other than poison.
  • Just like humans, cold weather can exacerbate arthritis in dogs and cats. Don’t medicate your pet without consulting a veterinarian, as many over the counter pain relievers for humans can be toxic for dogs or cats.

“Most importantly, if your pet is experiencing any abnormal behavior due to any of the items mentioned above, don’t hesitate to contact a veterinarian,” said Werber. “And, if it’s after hours or you don’t have a regular veterinarian, help is always just a few taps away by using Airvet on your mobile device.”

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