Cold weather can be difficult on pets, just like it can be hard on us humans. Sometimes pet owners forget their pets are just as accustomed to the warm shelter of the indoors as they are. Unfortunately, some pet owners choose to leave their pets outside for prolonged periods of time, thinking all dogs and cats can easily adapt to living outdoors. As a result, this can potentially put pets in danger of serious illness. Thankfully, there are precautions pet owners can take to keep their pets safe and warm.
First and foremost, before the height of the winter season arrives consider taking your pet in for a winter check-up. Your veterinarian can check to make sure your pet does not have any medical problems that will make him or her more susceptible to the cold weather. Below are a few items to keep in mind before the winter months arrive and through the season.
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Limit Your Pet's Exposure To The Outdoors
For your pet's (and your own) safety, you will need to shorten walks with your pet during very cold weather. Depending on your pet's breed, he or she may be able to remain outside longer than others in the winter. Long-haired breeds like Huskies do better in cold weather than short-haired breeds, such as Dachshunds. Cats and small dogs that have to wade shoulder-deep in the snow will surely feel the cold sooner than larger animals.
Your pet's health will also affect how long he or she can stay out. Medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease and hormone imbalances can compromise a pet's ability to regulate body heat. Animals that are generally not in good health should not be exposed to winter weather for a long period of time. Regardless of their health status, no pet should stay outside for unlimited amounts of time in freezing, cold weather.
If you reside near a pond or lake, be mindful about keeping your pet on a leash. Animals can easily fall through ice and it is very difficult for them to escape on their own. If your dog must be let loose near open water, stay nearby at all times.
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Keep Your Pet Warm
Small pets, pets with short or thin coats, and very young or senior pets are especially vulnerable to the effects of the cold. Besides limiting your pet's outdoor time, make sure to dry off your pet's fur and paws as soon as he or she comes indoors. Many pets appreciate a warm sweater or a cozy heated pet bed.
Pets that go outdoors in snowy weather can pick up rock salt, ice or chemical ice that can melt in their paw pads. To keep the paw pads from becoming chapped and raw, wipe your pet's feet with a washcloth after bringing indoors. By taking these precautions, both frostbite and hypothermia can be avoided in susceptible pets.
Consult Your Veterinarian About Possible Diet Changes For Your Pet In Winter Weather
Make sure you provide your pet with the right amount of calories. Because pets utilize a greater amount of body heat and metabolism to remain warm during colder weather, it may be important to increase nutrients to help with the body's demand. However, it's also important not to overfeed a pet that is less active during the winter months. In addition, adding a multivitamin supplement for all pets especially during the winter months is recommended.
Harsh colder weather can be very hard on your pet's joints, especially for senior and arthritic pets. Giving joint supplements with glucosamine and chondroitin can help provide key nutrients to ease inflamed joints.
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Use A Pet Gate To Close Off Potential Dangers
Before using the furnace, you should first check for carbon monoxide. If a space heater is used, remember the heat will be just as attractive to your pets, so it is important to eliminate the possibility of direct contact with flames, heating coils, and hot surfaces. Pets can either burn themselves or knock a heat source over and put the entire household in danger. For this reason, pet gates are a valuable pet supply which can also be used year-round.
Prevent Your Pet's Exposure To Antifreeze
Take preventative measures to keep pets from accidental antifreeze poisoning. Keep antifreeze in sealed containers out of reach of pets. Dispose of used antifreeze containers and rags in a garbage can pets can't access or open. Routinely check the garage floor and driveway for antifreeze leaks or spills. Cat litter is one way to absorb antifreeze leaks. Dispose of it immediately after use, in a garbage bag that is securely sealed. After returning home from a walk, wash your pet's paws in warm, soapy water in case your pet was unknowingly exposed to antifreeze while outside. Finally, switch to a pet-safe propylene glycol-based antifreeze, which is much less toxic than ethylene glycol-based antifreezes.
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By Nancy Buley, J. Frank Schmidt & Son Co., Wholesale Tree Growers
Photographs courtesy of J. Frank Schmidt & Son Co.
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