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Keeping pets safe from winter health concerns

Winter weather can cause challenges for humans, but pet experts say we also need to think about what winter means for our pets, especially those that spend a lot of time outdoors.

“The rule of thumb is simple,” says Dr. Stephen A. Brammeier of the Kingsbury Animal Hospital in St. Louis. “If winter is hard on you, it’s also likely to be hard on your pets. If your dog and cat are accustomed to warm temperatures indoors, you’ll need to make sure they are ready for colder outside temperatures. And be gentle with your elderly pets – dogs and cats with arthritis can experience more pain and dysfunction during colder weather.” 

Dogs have coats too

* A dog’s fur is his winter coat, so keep it long in winter. Consider jackets for short- or medium-haired dogs when temperatures go below 40 degrees. But remember that pets lose the majority of heat through pads of their feet, ears and respiratory tract, so coats aren’t enough when it’s really cold out. Frostbite can be a problem for the tips of your cat’s ears and possibly for dogs with ears that stand up or have little fur.

* Make sure that dogs that live outdoors have access to fresh – and not frozen – water. If your dog sleeps outdoors, provide an insulated dog house with a south- or east-facing door, and with bedding such as straw. The house should be big enough for the dog to stand, circle and lie down.

* Even with these precautions, an outside dog should come inside when temperatures are in the single digits or below.

(Frozen) liquid dangers

* Sharp ice can cut your pet’s feet, and their pads are sensitive to cold, so don’t leave your dog standing on cold concrete for more than a few minutes.

* The antifreeze used in cars is extremely poisonous, even in very small quantities. An animal walking through a spill and then licking its pads can easily ingest enough to cause fatal kidney damage. Be sure to carefully wipe up any spills, and consider using products that contain propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol.

* Some deicing products can be irritating to your pet’s feet and to their digestive systems if ingested. Washing feet after a walk can help. And consider using a deicing product specially formulated to be friendlier to pets.
 
The website of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) also offers the following advice:

Honk before you drive

* Be careful about letting your cat outside. Outdoor cats and other animals will seek warmth wherever they find it, including under the hoods of cars. If there are outdoor cats in your area, make a loud noise – honk the horn – before your start the engine.

Beautiful landscapes are dangerous

* The world looks different to your pets when it’s covered with ice and snow. Be careful with cats that go outdoors, and don’t let your dog off the leash in ice and snow. Pets can become disoriented and lost in these unfamiliar surroundings, and ponds and lakes that appear frozen over may not be. In fact, the ASPCA says, more dogs are lost during the winter than any other time, so make sure your pets have identification tags.

Source: Safe Step Sure Paws

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