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4 ways Pittsburghers should be protecting their pets this winter

Archie the dog.
Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA
Archie the dog.

Cold and snowy Pittsburgh winters can be a challenge for pets. Here are a few suggestions for keeping pets safe this time of year.

1. Sweet but deadly antifreeze

Every winter veterinarians treat dogs and sometimes cats for antifreeze poisoning, which can be fatal.

Antifreeze helps your car’s engine regulate its temperature in extreme weather; it can also taste sweet to dogs, who think this toxic chemical is a yummy treat.

Dr. Ken Fisher, owner of East End Veterinary Medical Centre in Pittsburgh, said he usually gets two or three calls a year about antifreeze exposures in pets.

“One of the first signs is vomiting,” said Fisher. “After an hour or so they start to look like they’re drunk. They’re just sort of unsteady on their feet and loopy.”

Antifreeze poisoning can look like other issues, such as marijuana toxicity, so vets may need to run blood work or perform an ultrasound to figure out exactly what’s wrong. If your pet has ingested antifreeze, it’s important to get them medical care right away so they can get on IV fluids. Otherwise, their kidneys might shut down.

2. Unfamiliar territory

Another issue to be aware of is that dogs and cats are more likely to get lost during the winter months, so it’s important to make sure their microchip or collar identification are updated.

“If they escape the yard, it’s really hard for them to find their way back because the scenery has changed, the scents have changed,” said Dr. Giselle Boertjens, chief of staff for Pittsburgh-area Banfield Pet Hospitals.

3. Sensitive paws

Other things to look out for are paw irritation; salt and other deicing substances can harm a pet’s feet.

4. Cold weather

Also, be aware if your pet is shivering. Animals that are particularly old or young, sick or pregnant can be more sensitive to extreme weather.

And finally, if you care for animals that live outside, such as cat colonies, Boertjens said it’s important that their food and water aren’t frozen.

Sarah Boden covers health and science for 90.5 WESA. Before coming to Pittsburgh in November 2017, she was a reporter for Iowa Public Radio where she covered a range of issues, including the 2016 Iowa Caucuses.