With the weather dropping into the teens and twenties, there are several risk factors to take into account when it comes to our four-legged family members. Brian Pribil, DVM of Animal Medical Clinic on Broadway and 15th has listed some important tips to safeguarding your beloved family members.
- Keep your cat inside. Outdoors, felines can freeze, become lost or be stolen, injured or killed. Cats who are allowed to stray are exposed to infectious diseases, including rabies, feline leukemia or feline AIDS from other cats, dogs, and wildlife.
- During the winter, outdoor cats sometimes sleep under the hoods of cars. When the motor is started, the cat can be injured or killed by the fan belt. If there are outdoor cats in your area, bang loudly on the car hood before starting the engine to give the cat a chance to escape.
- Never let your dog off the leash on snow or ice, especially during a snowstorm—dogs can lose their scent easily and become lost. More dogs are lost during the winter than during any other season, so make sure your pets always wears ID tags such as name tags, rabies tags, and/or has a microchip.
- Thoroughly wipe off your dog’s legs and stomach when he comes in out of the sleet, snow or ice. He can ingest salt, antifreeze or other potentially dangerous chemicals while licking his paws, and his paw pads may also bleed from snow or encrusted ice.
- Never shave your dog down to the skin in winter, as a longer coat provides more warmth. When you bathe your dog in the colder months, be sure to completely dry him before taking him out for a walk. If you own a short-haired dog, consider getting him a coat or sweater with a high collar or turtleneck with coverage from the base of the tail to the belly.
- Never leave your dog or cat alone in a car during cold weather. A car can act as a refrigerator in the winter holding in the cold and causing the animal to freeze to death.
- Puppies do not tolerate the cold as well as adult dogs, and it may be difficult to housebreak them during the winter. If your puppy appears to be sensitive to the weather, you may opt to paper-train him inside. If your dog is sensitive to the cold due to age, illness or breed type, take him outdoors only to relieve himself and bring him right back into the house.
- Does your dog spend a lot of time engaged in outdoor activities? Increase your dog’s supply of food. Pribil recommends that it may be necessary to switch to a high-energy food to maintain proper body weight if your dog is an active working dog in the winter.
- Coolant/antifreeze is a lethal poison for dogs and cats. Due to its sweet taste dogs and cats think it’s a great tasting treat. Be sure to thoroughly clean up any spills from your vehicle, and consider using products that contain propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol. Visit theASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (aspca.org) for more information.
- Make sure your companion animal has a warm place to sleep. A cozy dog or cat bed with a warm blanket or pillow is perfect. “Most body heat is lost thru contact with a cold ground or floor. A thick dog bed or pad out of the weather and away from drafts is the best protection for your pet,” states Dr. Pribil.
All of these tips are important for protecting your pets during the cold weather season. Another important tip to remember is to check and replace your pet’s water regularly to prevent it from freezing. Dehydration is a serious threat during cold weather.