Preparing Your Practice for a Wisconsin Winter 

Oct 3 | News, Practice Management

Temperatures are starting to fall, which means winter is right around the corner. Whether the change in seasons has you excited to make snow angels with Fido or dreading the bone-chilling cold, we have some tips to make this winter a breeze. The WVMA compiled a list of reminders to keep you, your employees, and your four-legged patients safe during the frigid months ahead. 

Protect Your Practice 

The U.S. Small Business Administration recommends fortifying your business by sealing all openings where cold air can enter. Veterinary practices should determine what is most vulnerable to freezing temperatures such as computers, medical imaging machines, or medicines, and create a plan of protection. 

Ensure everyone can safely walk into your veterinary clinic by using ice melt on your sidewalks and parking lots. Industrial supply company, Fastenal, says ice melt is readily available at most branches and shortages are not expected. However, veterinary practices should be mindful of the type of ice melt they order. 

Common rock salt is one of the most popular ice melts available, but all are not created equally. The calcium-based products may be more toxic to pets. The AVMA notes that the urea-containing products may be considered more pet friendly although may not work as effectively as temperatures plummet. Some of the safest ice melts for dogs have a propylene glycol base, though be aware this type is dangerous for ruminants as ammonia toxicosis is a concern. Overexposure or ingestion can lead to dry, cracked, bleeding, or burned paws, diarrhea, and vomiting, so be sure to limit use to the amount recommended and remember to clear the area of slush and salt once the product melts the ice. 

Cold Weather Travel Safety 

For those of you who will be braving the cold and traveling to your four-legged patients, we suggest getting your vehicle serviced for winter as soon as possible. Spinning out on the way to an appointment isn’t the best way to find out you need new tires. Consider dedicated winter tires to ensure optimum traction on icy roads, with options ranging from all-weather tires with deeper treads, or studded and studdable snow tires. 

Consider reminding pet owners to line cat or dog crates with layers of folded towels to help ease their journey. Covering crates with a blanket not only conserves warmth but can help reduce anxiety by limiting visual stimuli. 

For clinics providing curbside service, advise your clients to take care not to drain their battery when leaving their car running and avoid being left out in the cold. 

Veterinarians caring for large animals should also double-check that their winter clothing is in good repair or buy appropriate clothing that allows ease of movement. Lightweight, water-repellent gear will protect from freezing temperatures while you treat animals big and small. Consider something stretchy and breathable so you can easily carry out demanding tasks in the cold. 

Veterinarians and staff members alike will benefit from a winter emergency kit in your car or vet truck, whether you are driving into town to a clinic shift or heading out on a call. In case of a breakdown or severe winter storm, pack a kit that includes: 

• kitty litter (for tire traction) 
• extra stocking caps, gloves, warm socks 
• water and high-energy, non-perishable foods 
• a reflective blanket 
• jumper cables 
• first aid kit 
• flashlight and extra batteries 
• $20 in small bills and change 
• flares or reflective triangles 
• ice scraper/snow brush and windshield cleaner 
• small snow shovel 
• cell phone charger 
• multi-tool

Before you head out to rural areas, call highway safety to check changing travel conditions. Visit 511wi.gov, dial 511, or download the free 511 Wisconsin mobile app for customized alerts by county. 

Wisconsin winters bring plenty of snow and chilly temperatures, so get ahead of the curve and take steps now to protect your veterinary practice, employees, and furry patients.