Health & Care > Pet care, safety and insurance > Winter Pet Safety - Keeping Your Pet Healthy in the Ice and Snow

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12/09/2011 13:15:02 PM by HAFowler   Send Message to HAFowler  6108  views, category: Pet care, safety and insurance view all blogs


Keep your furbabies safe in ice and snow season!

It might feel more like spring in many parts of the US, but recent storms remind us that it really is that most wonderful time of the year – the season of freezing cold, ice and snow! It’s beautiful, and for those of us who enjoy outdoor sports, it’s a blast. All of that doesn’t even mention the joy of the holidays!

Our pets enjoy the season too. All the shiny tinkly things on that indoor tree, all the paper and boxes and new toys, the special food and fun guests to meet. Winter is a very exciting time of the year for our four legged friends. Unfortunately, it also presents some unique dangers for them that we as their people need to be careful of on their behalf.

Protection from the Elements

It’s always a better idea to have both cats and dogs live inside fulltime, and at no time is this more true than winter. According to the American Humane Society, this is especially true of cats, short-haired, and small dogs. Any animals that have to live outside for any reason need an elevated shelter with a dry, clean sleeping area, and a weather-resistant cover over the opening to keep out the elements. They also suggest adding a pet door to the garage, and setting up a soft sleeping space in the warmest section as an alternative. Always bring indoor pets inside no matter what during storms.

Rethinking Winter Feeding

Always make sure outdoor food and water don’t freeze. Since outdoor animals have a much higher calorie need to support their production of body heat, you should increase the amount of food they receive accordingly. On the other hand, indoor pets generally get less exercise when the weather turns cold, so they need a lower calorie diet to prevent excessive weight gain.

Winter Poisons

Be careful of substances used to melt ice and snow on sidewalks and driveways, such as sno-melt, salt, or sand. They can be deadly if eaten, and highly irritating for your pet’s skin. Cover your pet’s paws with special boots when you take them for a walk, or wash them carefully when they come back inside to prevent rash and keep them from licking it. Store the materials out of reach in secure containers.

Antifreeze is a serious problem with animals, as it smells and tastes to them like a yummy treat, but will kill them if they ingest even the smallest amount. Be cognizant of radiator leaks in your vehicle, and keep any bottles of antifreeze in secure areas out of pets’ reach. If there is any spill in your garage, flush and scrub the area as soon as possible.

A Little Known Danger – the Engine Block

In Yorkshire, England recently, a family cat named Drago disappeared suddenly, leaving the family bereft. They had heard that a cat resembling Drago’s description had been killed by a car, and so grieved for his loss.

Several weeks later, the family learned that Drago had indeed had problems with a car, but of a very different kind. One of his people heard weak noises coming from the car in the middle of the night, and upon investigation, Drago was found to be caught under the hood of the family car. He had been there for over two weeks, and Drago had lost almost half his body weight. The family rushed him to the vet, certain that he would have to be euthanized.

Drago was very lucky. Because he had been on top of the engine near the hood, he wasn’t injured by the machinery of the car, and he was given a clean bill of health and sent home that very night! He is expected to recover fully.

Most animals aren’t so lucky, however. Outdoor cats often crawl up under your car looking for shelter from the elements near the warmest part – the engine. If they don’t leave in time, they can be caught in the engine fan and be seriously injured or killed when the vehicle starts. To prevent this, give the hood a few good, hard knocks, or even open it on very cold days, both which will hopefully startle or expose any animals who might have moved in for the night and scare them off.

That extra few seconds before you leave for the day can save a life!

The Debate over Outerwear

Some people think it’s ridiculous to dress up their dog or cat, citing the fact that animals have a natural winter coat to protect them when they have to go outside in the cold to do their business. This maybe so, especially in dog breeds built for outdoor life, like a St. Bernard, a Samoyed or other kind of sled dog. But most cats and many dogs (especially small or thin-coated ones) are not built for the outdoors. And no dog has real protection from the frigid ground for the delicate pads of their paws. Fashion debates aside, it never hurts to add a well-fitting, warm sweater and pair of booties to your pet’s natural wardrobe, if you can get your pet to accept it! And again, if you can keep your animals inside, do so.

Don’t Forget Holiday Celebration Safety!

Keep in mind the importance of Avoiding Seasonal Pet Poisoning, and be very cautious of pets’ love affair with all the interesting holiday decorations, from lights, to the tree, and everything shiny, dangly and bright that comes along with them – none of it except perhaps gift wrapping and boxes are safe pet toys!

About the author: I'm a freelance writer and novelist from the very far reaches of Upstate New York. I've had pets all of my life, and can't bear a household that isn't full of furry life. Besides my extremely spoiled pair of cats, I also love writing, reading, tra... more >>

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