Brrrr...it’s cold outside! The following guidelines will help you protect your companion animals when the mercury dips.
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, 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.
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 will provide more warmth. When you bathe your dog in the colder months, be sure to completely dry him before taking him out for a walk. Own a short-haired breed? Consider getting him a coat or sweater with a high collar or turtleneck with coverage from the base of the tail to the belly. For many dogs, this is regulation winter wear.
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. Pet Winter Safety: Prepping Your Pet for Winter Weather
If you have a dog that spends most of its time romping in your backyard, or a kitty that whiles away the day in a sunny patch on the front porch, winter's arrival may be a rude awakening. Sure, your precious pets are covered in fur. But many just aren't equipped to be out in frigid temperatures for prolonged periods.
So how can you make sure your four-legged friends are warm and well-cared for when the mercury dips? Web MD talked to veterinarians and pet owners and got their top tips on winter safety for pets, from protecting pets that spend a lot of time outdoors to tips on getting your pooch to potty outside when wintry winds blow.
Keeping Warm: Fur Isn't Flawless We may admire our pets' plush coats, but as beautiful as fur is, it's not a perfect insulator, especially when it's very cold.
In winter, pets can suffer from the weather extremes "for the same reason that mountain climbers can get hypothermia no matter what type of protective clothing they are wearing," says Oregon veterinarian Marla J. McGeorge, DVM. "Mammalian systems for heat retention and regulation can be overwhelmed by excessive cold." And, if an animal's coat gets wet, the fur loses much of its insulating ability, McGeorge tells WebMD. For cats and dogs with short fur, the protection is even more minimal, "sort of like wearing a T-shirt when it's below freezing." Your pet's toes, nose, and ears are even more vulnerable to chilly temps.
That's why, in winter, pets need protection from extreme temperatures, which includes warm, dry, draft-free shelter; plenty of food; and lots of water. Take precautions any time the temperatures drop below freezing, says Jean Sonnenfield, DVM, an Atlanta veterinarian. And remember, if it’s too cold for you, it’s probably too cold for your pet. Pet Winter Safety: Should Your Pet Dress for the Weather?We don coats to face the frigid temps, so it seems natural to think that coats for dogs and cats might offer them similar protection from the elements. The vets we talked to agreed -- to a point.
Coats to protect cats from cold weather are probably not a good idea, say pros we talked to. "Cats generally won't tolerate them well," Sonnenfield tells WebMD, adding that pet clothes are probably most useful for your pooch.
Yet, as cute as your dog's cold weather coat may be, don't put clothes on your pet and then shoo him outside to wander without supervision, says Susan G. Wynn, DVM, a veterinary nutritionist in Georgia. Not only does your pet risk frostbite and other danger if his canine clothes get wet, he may "try to get out of the sweater or coat and get caught in a way that makes suffocation a risk." Monitoring your dressed-up dog is essential.
While you're at it, keep an eye on your pup's pads too, Sonnenfield says. "It does not take long for snow to freeze on their paws and cause problems." Salt-spread sidewalks can also imperil your pooch's pads by burning them. If you go the route of protective booties for your dog, try slipping baby socks onto his paws to get him used to the feel of something on his feet. Once your pooch accepts the socks, he's probably ready for booty bling.
A quick note about dog boots: Be sure they fit snugly but not too tight. Otherwise you risk cutting off your dog’s circulation and inviting frostbite.
Pet Winter Safety for Very Young and Older Pets
Dog boots, cute coats, flashy collars, and leashes -- these are all meant to be used with healthy, adult pets in winter.
Puppies and kittens as well as older dogs and cats shouldn't be outside no matter how well-dressed. That's because they just don't have the fat, metabolism, or the full fur coat they need to stay warm when temperatures plunge.
When it's cold or wet out, veterinarians say it's vital to keep younger, older, and sick pets indoors.
Dogs and Cold Weather: Preparing a Warm Space for Your Dog for a pooch that spends a lot of time outside, you'll need to take the same steps to protect your dog in cold weather as those taken for an outdoor-only cat, including:
Making sure your dog has warm, dry, draft-free, covered shelter, preferably in a garage, shed, or beneath a carport or porch awning.
Warming that shelter with bedding you check daily -- wet bedding can be fatal to a pet. Look into purchasing electric heating products specifically made for a dog's use.
Being sure that fresh, unfrozen water is available to your dog every day. You can find inexpensive warmers to keep your pet's water from freezing.
Providing your dog plenty of food; pets need even more calories in the winter to help them keep warm.
Always bring your dog inside when the temperatures turn particularly harsh, the pros say. "If you wouldn't want to be out in those conditions in just your clothes and a coat for too long, your pet won't want to be either," pet owner and Utah social worker Sherri G. says.
Dogs in Cold Weather: Encouraging Potty Breaks
When the snow is deep and the temps plunge, no one wants to go potty outdoors. So how can you encourage your four-legged friend to go outside when the need strikes? WebMD pet message board members and others in the know offer these quick tips:
Shovel it. Keep a small area in the yard shoveled clear of snow; or at least be sure the snow is only an inch or two deep. Then encourage your pet to use this spot. It helps if you shovel a path to this snow-free area.
Buy booties. If your dog is bothered by the snow or ice touching its feet, snow boots donned just before the potty break may make the outdoor journey -- and walking your pet in cold weather -- much easier. A bonus: Pet booties should help the house stay cleaner, too.
Stay close. When it's really cold out, members suggest waiting by the door while your pooch uses its outdoor potty, then letting him back in as soon as he's done.
Make an indoor potty. When the weather outside is truly frightful and you really don't want to let Fido or Fifi out, you do have indoor options for your pet's toilet needs:
Pet pee pads resemble a flat, unfolded diaper and are an especially effective option for small, older, or sick dogs. Most pet supply stores carry a range of pee pad sizes, from toy-dog tiny to extra large.
Indoor pee patches consist of small swathes of pseudo grass topping a broad, hollow tray into which urine collects each time a dog goes potty. You can find several inexpensive options with a quick online search.
Some smaller dogs can also be litter box-trained; even mature dogs can be taught to use a box inside. Be patient during the process, suggest message board members. Training your pup to use a litter box doesn't happen overnight.
Pet Winter Safety: Know the Signs of Hypothermia and Frostbite When cats and dogs are exposed to the cold for too long, their body temperature -- which is usually between 101°F and 102.5°F -- can drop fatally. Here's what you need to know as you keep a close eye on your pets in winter.
Hypothermia Symptoms in Dogs and Cats
violent shivering, followed by listlessness
lack of appetite
rectal temperature below 98°F
Wrap your pet in a warm blanket or coat (you can warm blankets and coats in the dryer for a few minutes).
Bring your pet into a warm room.
Give your pet a solution of four teaspoons honey or sugar dissolved in warm water to drink. You can also put 1-2 teaspoons of corn syrup on the gums if your pet is too weak to drink. This provides an immediate energy boost.
Place warm, towel-wrapped water bottles against your pet's abdomen or at her armpits and chest, then wrap her in a blanket. Do not use hair dryers, heating pads, or electric blankets to warm up a hypothermic pet as this may result in burns or cause surface blood vessels to dilate, which compromises circulation to vital organs.
Call your veterinarian immediately.
Frostbite Signs in Dogs and Cats
Frostbite happens when a part of your pet's body freezes. For cats, that may involve the paws, tail, or ears; for dogs, the tail, ears, foot pads, or scrotum. Severe winter weather, especially when windy or humid, can lead to frostbite. Watch for:
pale, gray, or blue skin at first
red, puffy skin later
pain in ears, tail, or paws when touched
skin that stays cold
Apply warm (not hot) water for at least 20 minutes to the frostbitten area. Do not use hair dryers, heating pads, or electric blankets to warm up a frostbitten pet as this may cause burns.
Handle the affected areas very carefully; don't rub or massage them as you could cause permanent damage.
Call your vet immediately.
It doesn't take much to keep our pets safe when things get frosty. Just like us, our feline and canine friends need shelter, warmth, food, and care. When winter's chill sends you scurrying indoors, don't forget your furry four-footed pals and their simple needs this season.
Thanks to Web Md and the ASAPA for all the info.
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