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Winter Pet Tips

winter pawprint

Has your pet had his/her wellness exam yet?  Cold weather may worsen some medical conditions such as arthritis. Your pet should be examined by a veterinarian at least once a year, and it’s as good a time as any to get him/her checked out to make sure they are ready and as healthy as possible for cold weather.

Know the limits:  Just like people, pets’ cold tolerance can vary from pet to pet based on their coat, body fat stores, activity level, and health. Be aware of your pet’s tolerance for cold weather, and adjust accordingly. You will probably need to shorten your dog’s walks in very cold weather to protect you both from weather-associated health risks. Arthritic and elderly pets may have more difficulty walking on snow and ice and may be more prone to slipping and falling. Long-haired or thick-coated dogs tend to be more cold-tolerant, but are still at risk in cold weather. Short-haired pets feel the cold faster because they have less protection, and short-legged pets may become cold faster because their bellies and bodies are more likely to come into contact with snow-covered ground. Pets with diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, or hormonal imbalances (such as Cushing’s disease) may have a harder time regulating their body temperature, and may be more susceptible to problems from temperature extremes. The same goes for very young and very old pets.

Repeatedly coming out of the cold into the dry heat of your home can cause itchy, flaking skin. Keep your home humidified and towel dry your pet as soon as they come inside.  Pay special attention to their feet and in-between the toes. Remove any snow balls from between foot pads.

We recommend bringing a towel on long walks to clean off stinging, irritated paws. After each walk, wash and dry your pet’s feet and stomach to remove the ice, salt and chemicals.  You should also check for cracks in paw pads or redness between the toes.  Booties provide even more coverage and can also prevent sand and salt from getting lodged between bare toes and causing irritation.

Use should pet-friendly ice melts whenever possible. Types of salt (typically calcium or sodium chloride) used to melt ice and snow and keep it from refreezing are somewhat harsh on delicate paws, not to mention they corrode concrete and damage the vegetation. Protect your pet’s paws!

If your dog is long-haired, you might consider keeping the hair around the toes trimmed short during the winter seasons.  Clinging ice balls, salt crystals and de-icing chemicals can frequently collect in the hair between the toes.

If your dog is short-haired, consider getting them a coat or sweater with a high collar or turtleneck with coverage from the base of the tail to the belly.  Be sure your dog can move comfortably around in their coat.  You never want to use a coat that will interfere with their breathing, vision or ability to move.

Like coolant, antifreeze is a lethal poison for dogs and cats. Be sure to thoroughly clean up any spills from your vehicle, and consider using products that contain propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol.

Remember, if it’s too cold for you, it’s probably too cold for your pet.  Keeping them indoors on the really cold days will be ideal.  If left outdoors, pets can freeze, become disoriented, lost or injured. In addition, don’t leave pets alone in a car during cold weather.  Cars can act as refrigerators that hold in the cold and cause animals to freeze to death.

Frostbite is a serious problem during winter, especially for paws, tips of tails, and ears. This makes it even more important in keeping your pet warm, especially if they’re an outdoor pet. Early warning signs of frostbite include firm, waxy skin and blisters.

There is a very long list why it is advisable to keep your cat indoors.  Outdoor cats can be very crafty when it comes to finding shelter.  Make sure to bang on your car hood before starting the car (this is particularly important if you see paw prints on your hood). Stray cats often hide under a vehicle’s hood when it’s warm and can develop severe fan belt injuries (including broken jaw bones, severe lacerations, etc.) when the car is started.

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