When someone decides to immigrate to Canada, it is inevitable to think about the challenges they will face. The list is long, but the cold is one of the first impacts of lifestyle compared to what is experienced in Brazil. When faced with plummeting temperatures outside their homes, many pet owners don’t know how to protect their animals. But with some adjustments, it is perfectly possible for pets to have a happy and active long life over snowy lands.
THE EXPERIENCE OF ALEXIA AND ANDRÉ WITH COOKIE, THEIR AUSTRALIAN CATTLE DOG PET
Aléxia Carvalho and André Uriel Carvalho, both 30 years old, wanted an animal that would accompany the couple’s lifestyle. They chose to get a dog. “We’re from Rio de Janeiro and we love doing outdoor sports. That’s why it was important that the dog enjoyed hiking, going to the beach, and being in nature in general. Besides, we already knew that we’d be leaving Brazil and it would have to adapt to this change,” says Aléxia.
With that in mind, they looked for a breed that was highly adaptable. Cookie, now 3 years old, is an Australian Cattle Dog, a breed known for being used for grazing cattle on farms, so it gets along very well with differences in temperature and more active day-to-day life.
EVEN FOR DOG BREEDS ACCUSTOMED TO LOW TEMPERATURES, PROTECTION AGAINST CANADA’s SUPER COLD WEATHER IS NECESSARY
Once on Canadian soil, they discovered some care was needed to protect the animal during the winter. “In Prince George, British Columbia, we’ve already experienced a temperature of -40 degrees Celsius. So it is important to observe the pet’s behaviour before allowing him to go outside”, Aléxia reports.
To decide whether to take Cookie out for a walk or not, the couple looks for signs that may suggest that he doesn’t want to leave the house in the cold. For example, Cookie would go back inside when they open the door. When they decide to go out and Cookie is cold, he keeps raising his paws, thus showing his discomfort with the ice. In this case, Aléxia and André control his exposure time to extreme temperatures.
PAY SPECIAL ATTENTION TO HYPOTHERMIA AND FROSTBITE, WHICH ARE SKIN BURNS CAUSED BY THE COLd
Biologist Karina Flor, 40, works at a veterinary clinic in the same city as Cookie and his human family. She says that, in addition to hypothermia, other dangers of low temperatures are frostbite, which are skin burns caused by the cold. That’s why Aléxia is right about controlling the time her dog spends outside the house and observing his behaviour.
“Some animals can only do their business outside, so in those cases, it’s worth waiting for them to give clear indications that they need to go out, such as starting to turn around or walk in circles and go to the door. That way, the least amount of time is spent outside on very cold days,” explains Karina.
OTHER WAYS TO PROTECT PETS ARE TO PUT BOOTIES ON THEIR PAWS AND DRESS THEM IN APPROPRIATE CLOTHES
Footwear helps prevent products thrown into the snow – such as salt and de-icing chemicals – from coming into contact with the animals’ delicate skin. “Some of these materials can be toxic, causing chemical burns. Ingestion can cause vomiting and dehydration,” says Karina (find out more about the precautions needed in the box below).
To avoid these problems, Alexia only takes Cookie for walks in places she knows are safe and prevents him from trying to eat snow, something the dog loves to do. When the cold is too much, it is common for the paws and snouts of animals to dry out. In such cases, applying moisturizer to the affected parts may lessen the flaking.
DOS AND DON’TS WITH PETS IN COLD WEATHER
- Observe the animal’s behaviour before taking it for a walk. He’ll let you know if he really wants to go out or if it’s too cold for him.
- Avoid going outdoors in temperatures below -5 degrees Celsius for small pets and -10 for medium and large pets.
- If you leave the house, dress the animal in clothing suitable for low temperatures.
- Dry your pet’s paws well upon returning home and clean between the toes.
- Identify the first signs of frostbite: redness, discomfort to the touch, swelling in the affected area, and pale or bluish skin in the region. If this occurs, go inside immediately.
- Choose a pet-friendly de-icing compound to throw on the sidewalk. Propylene glycol-based antifreeze is safer for pets – as opposed to ethylene glycol-based, which is toxic.
- Walk slowly and carefully when it’s slippery because, just like humans, pets can slip and get hurt.
- Make sure the animal is fed and hydrated properly. In winter, the body uses more energy to stay warm.
- Avoid metal pots for water and food outside the house to avoid the risk of the little dog sticking its tongue to the basin when trying to feed or drink.
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