It was last Friday, the 24th, when a handsome tabby cat was brought to CATS Cradle Shelter with severe frostbite on all four paws and both of his ears. Now in the loving care of foster parents, this cat—aptly named Polar—has been put on painkillers and antibiotics and has undergone surgery. So far this little trooper has lost several toes and may even need a leg amputated.
Polar is living proof that, in subzero temperatures, no domestic animal should be left to fend for itself. If left to their own devices, dogs and cats can succumb to frostbite, hypothermia, and even illness from exposure to winter chemicals.
Hypothermia occurs when the body’s temperature dips too low from exposure to a cold climate. If left untreated, it can lead to organ damage and death. Symptoms include an irregular heartbeat, lethargy, dehydration, cold skin, and labored breathing.
Frostbite occurs when cold temperatures constrict the blood vessels, decreasing blood flow to areas such as the tail, ear tips, and feet. Affected areas would be sensitive to the touch, discolored, swollen, blackened, or blistered.
Symptoms of antifreeze poisoning are staggering, vomiting, lack of appetite, disorientation, excessive drinking, and frequent urination. Another dangerous substance is road salt, which can cause paw irritation. If ingested, it can lead to excessive drooling, decreased appetite, vomiting, and depression. In the case that your pet gets loose and walks on a salted sidewalk, wipe their paws immediately before they lick it off themselves.
Pets must also remain hydrated during the winter, and their water bowls must be placed in a warm area so they don’t freeze over. Air inside the house in winter can get very dry, so a humidifier could help make your pets more comfortable.
– Särah Nour