Animal Care

Winter Hazards for Animals

Winter is upon us which means cold weather not only for us, but for our pets as well.  They, too, suffer from the cold, icy blasts of winter.  Here are a few steps to take to ensure your pets are kept in a safe environment.

1. Most cats and dogs are better off indoors as family members and for their own safety.

2. If your pet is kept outdoors, a doghouse must be provided.  The entire structure should be a few inches off the ground to allow for air circulation to prevent dampness.  The entrance should be turned to face away from the wind and have a flap to keep winter drafts to a minimum and the outside should be waterproof.  One very important feature – the inside of the doghouse should be large enough for the dog to lie down and have a little head room when sitting down, no larger.  The dog’s body heat will help keep the house warm.  Fresh hay, straw, cedar shavings or blankets should be placed in the structure for added warmth and comfort.  Matted fur will no protect your pet from the cold.  Keep your pet’s coat well groomed.

3. When temperatures drop below 20 degrees Farenheit, it’s best to keep your pet indoors.  Short haired dogs, elderly dogs and puppies should be kept indoors when the temperatures dip below 40 degrees Farenheit.  

4. Pets’ paws, ears and abdomen do not have much fur; therefore, may become frostbitten.  Signs of frostbite are skin that may turn reddish, white or grey and the skin is cool to touch.  It may also be scaly or sloughing.  There may be decreased sensation to the affected areas.  If frostbite is suspected, take your pet to a warm place immediately.  Thaw out frostbitten areas slowly by placing warm moist towels to the areas.  Continue until the affected areas become flushed.   Contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.

5. Outdoor cats may seek protection from bad weather in the motor of your car.   Hit or bang your car’s hood or sound the horn before starting the engine.  This will give them time to escape from a hazardous situation.

6. Antifreeze attracts both cats and dogs.  Ethylene glycol is a sweet ingredient in antifreeze which invites them to taste it.  The results can be deadly.   If you pet has swallowed antifreeze, call your veterinarian at once.  The signs and symptoms of antifreeze poisoning are:  acting drunk, staggering and appearing depressed possibly within 30 minutes of ingestion.  This may last up to 12 hours.  The animal may even appear to be getting better.  Within 24 hours, there will be prolonged vomiting, severe kidney pain, ulcers in the mouth and throat and excruciating death from kidney failure.  Thoroughly clean the spills right away.  Keep containers closed tightly and store them where pets cannot get to them.

7. Rock salt is abrasive and may cut into the animals’ paws.  The salt may become embedded in the wound and cause great pain.  Pets will lick the wound which may burn their mouths and throats.  Vomiting will occur if rock salt has been ingested.  Every time a pet is brought inside during an icy, cold day, check his paws.  Remove ice balls between their toes and wipe their feet with a damp towel to remove any left over salt.  Another way to protect your dog’s feet is to spray cooking oil or purchase boots for your pet.

8. Feed your pet extra food as the temperatures drop.  Staying warm requires extra calories.  Always have fresh, clean water available for your pet.  If kept outdoors, check your pet’s water frequently as it may freeze.  Animals can’t burn calories without a fresh supply of drinking water.  If they can’t burn calories, they’ll get cold.

9. Keep your dog on heartworm preventative throughout the year in areas that have a year-round mosquito problem.

10. Holiday decorations are a source of danger.  Christmas trees are of great interest for most pets.  It is best to close off decorated rooms when pets are left unattended.

11. Cover or tack down electrical cords.

12. If swallowed, tinsel, angel hair, ornament hangers, small pieces of fabric, plastic, metal and wood can be fatal to pets.  Contact your veterinarian.

13. We have all been made aware of mistletoe, holly and bittersweet should be kept away from pets.  Only one or two mistletoe berries can be fatal to our pets.  Poinsettia leaves can cause digestive problems.  Pine needles can make a pet very ill.

14. Holiday foods are high in fat and milk which can cause digestive problems, such as vomiting and diarrhea in dogs and cats.  Because of theobromine in chocolate, it can be toxic to dogs.

Wishing you a wonderful and safe holiday season!  As a final word, please do not give an animal as a present.  This is a 10-20 year commitment that the person may not wish to devote to. Introduce the gift as a gift certificate, a photo of the pet, a food bowl or a toy.