This month Zack Manko focuses on tips for winter pet parenting to keep us all safe and warm and help avoid disasters.
It’s February, and March is just around the corner. That means spring, right? Wrong. Spring doesn’t begin until the middle of March, and even then (especially if you live in the Northeast like Sorsha) you could still be facing snow, slush, and ice.
This type of weather, whether you call in “winter” or “spring-challenged”, can lead to a multitude of fiascoes, sticky situations, and outright disasters—and this is true whether you walk around on two legs or four. Sorsha and I think it would be best if you’re prepared for emergency situations during this time of the year, whether you encounter them alone, or with your favorite four-pawed friend by your side.
Low temperatures, winter precipitation, and road salt can all wreak havoc on your automobile. If your car is unprepared for winter travel, you run the risk of sliding off the road, spinning out, breaking down, or being unable to drive. This can make for a cold, scary night—or longer.
Luckily, you can mitigate the likelihood of such a chilly event (or make a frozen night on the road a little more bearable) by using some good old fashioned dog sense. There are several strategies and simple steps you can implement to protect your vehicle, your car, and your pet, including:
- Test and charge your battery.
- Check your tire tread and pressure. You may have to do this frequently, as the cold weather can decrease your tire pressure. Be sure to inflate as needed.
- Keep an eye on your antifreeze levels, and be sure to use a kind that is safe for pets. Many types of antifreeze have a sweet smell that can attract pets, which is unfortunate, as antifreeze is poisonous. Look forantifreeze brands that add a bittering agent to the mix, or thatuse less toxic chemicals.
- Watch out for sleeping critters inside your vehicle. Many wild animals, or even cats that roam around outdoors, know that your engine is a safe, warm sleeping spot. Starting your engine while they are near or inside it can be fatal. Be sure to bang on the hood of your car to wake up these freeloaders and send them packing, for their own safety.
- Maintain adequate brakes and practice proper braking procedure. Remember, slamming on your brakes during a spin out or slide will only worsen your situation.
- Ensure your visibility by checking your lights and windshield wipers. You might want to invest in some winter blades if you live in a climate that gets inclement weather.
In addition to these steps, be sure to have an emergency road kit in your vehicle. This should include items and gear not only to help you out in a crash or breakdown, but should also include considerations for situations where you might have to spend the night in the snow.
Your emergency road kit should include:
- Drinking water
- First-aid kit
- Food for you and fido. Try to find non-perishable items. This should be easy for your dog—just get some dry kibble. For humans, think things with a long shelf life, like granola or dried meat products.
- Blankets and warm clothing like hats, gloves, and scarves
- Windshield scraper and brush
- Flashlight. Yes, get a separate one. I know you think you can just use your phone, but if you get stuck, you won't be able to charge that sucker, so you might as well save its precious battery life for phone calls.
- Similarly, you’ll want an atlas or road maps on hand, to avoid using your phone for online maps.
- Jumper cables
- Road flares
- Basic toolkit
- Sack of kitty litter or sand. No, this isn't for your pet, it is to create traction behind your wheels if you end up off the road.
- Spare tire and tire-changing tools
Get prepared, stay ready, and drive safe, and you and your pets will have a smooth winter.
Not all winter disasters happen while you're driving, and you're not always out on the road. I'm sure your dog appreciates you staying near and dear, but sometimes your winter maintenance around the home can be a danger for them.
Rock salt and deicers used to keep your driveway, sidewalk, and paths free from ice can often harm the paws of your pets. They are made of abrasive materials, and prolonged or rough contact can cause cuts or small lesions on a pet’s footpads. If left untreated, they can become infected and cause significant pain. Treating such injuries requires medication and maybe even surgery.
To protect them, make sure your dog's feet are all ship-shape before letting them outside. Inspect them regularly for signs of damage or wear and tear. You should also be vigilant and make sure that humans and pets both are doing their best to avoid tracking rock salt and deicers inside, where it can continue to pose a threat.
You should also consider usingrock salt or deicers that are safer for dogs and other animals.
Another winter disaster to consider is getting snowed in. Sometimes so much snow falls that you’ll be unable to leave your house for food or other supplies. Sorsha would like you to start preparing now for such an event.
Luckily, most of us have some experience with stockpiling a few basic necessities—the pandemic’s silver lining, if you will. However, there are some other steps you’ll want to take to protect your family, your home, your pets, and yourself.
Trim branches around your home to mitigate the chance of them falling and damaging your roof. If your heat goes out, close your blinds and doors to keep in the heat. Use towels or rags as makeshift insulation around window and door frames. Stay hydrated and fed, so your body can produce its own heat.
In addition to some food and water, be sure to have supplies on hand for your pet. You should also consider stocking some spare parts for your furnace, like a flame rod igniter or air filter.
Winter can be cold and dangerous. But it can also be a total blast, offering snowballs fights, snowmen, and sledding. Make the most of winter by staying safe, planning ahead, and taking responsibility for the well-being of yourself and your pets.