Winter is settling in with the first bitter cold spell and snow hitting Chicago this week. Are you up on winter pet safety tips to keep your furry friend safe from the cold bite of winter? Cold and extreme weather conditions post problems for pets, especially if they are used to being indoors.
Here are some winter pet safety tips to help keep your pet safe and warm from Dr. Robyn Barbiers, a veterinarian and president of The Anti-Cruelty Society, Chicago’s oldest and largest animal welfare organization.
Bring All Pets Indoors – The Anti-Cruelty Society recommends that all of your pets live indoors with you. If you do have a pet that spends most of its time outdoors, bring them indoors during sub-zero temperatures. Frostbite can set in very rapidly and may lead to death. Since dogs need to go outdoors to do their duty, make their time outdoors as brief as possible.
Frostbite – Even though companion animals have a fur coat, most cats and dogs cannot endure the cold of winter for more than 10 to 15 minutes. Pets left outdoors can get frostbite and even freeze to death. Signs of frostbite include skin that is pale and cool to the touch, with decreased sensation in the affected area. If you suspect frostbite, gently warm the area with warm – not hot – water and then take the animal to your veterinarian. Once an area has been frozen it becomes more susceptible to cold and frostbite.
Anti-Freeze: A winter pet safety tip that is often overlooked is the consumption of anti-freeze.Animals are attracted to this substance by its sweet taste. It can be fatal if ingested, so keep all anti-freeze bottles out of your pet's reach. Also be sure to clean up any spills in your garage or driveway immediately. If your cat or dog should swallow anti-freeze--or any poison--contact your veterinarian immediately.
Car Engines – In cold weather, cats allowed outdoors may crawl beneath cars and climb up inside the engines seeking warmth and shelter. This can lead to injuries or death when the engines are started. To prevent such an occurrence, keep your cat indoors at all times. To protect stray cats, an important winter pet safety tip is to knock on your car's hood or sound your horn before starting the car in cold weather.
It’s the Law – According to The Illinois Department of Agriculture Bureau of Animal Health and Welfare, “If your dog lives outside, your dog must be protected by a dry, draft-free doghouse that is large enough to allow the dog to sit and lie down comfortably, but small enough to hold in his/her body heat. The floor should be raised a few inches off the ground and covered with cedar shavings or straw. The house should be turned to face away from the wind, and the doorway should be covered with waterproof burlap or heavy plastic.
Pets who spend a lot of time outdoors need more food in the winter because keeping warm depletes energy. Routinely check your pet's water dish to make certain the water is fresh and unfrozen. Use plastic food and water bowls rather than metal; when the temperature is low, your pet's tongue can stick and freeze to metal."
Some other tips to remember during the cold weather –
Ice, salt and snow – Dogs step in a lot of stuff outside, from salt to sleet and snow to mud. Dog boots will keep their paws dry and will cut down on the possibility of them licking something harmful off their paws. If you don’t use a boot, clean and dry their paws each time you come back in from the cold.
Keep your dog on leash – More dogs are lost in winter than any other season because it’s so easy for them to lose their sense and perspective during a snowstorm. Keep them on a leash or go to a fenced-in dog area. It’s even more important to keep your pet leashed if you live near a pond or river so they aren’t tempted to go out on the ice and possibly fall through.
Be cautious when out in the dark - Since there are fewer daylight hours, many people have no choice than to be out with their dog in the dark of the morning or eventing. Keep your dog close and don't use a retractible leash. Be careful when crossing streets and alleys that your dog is by your side and easier to see. Use reflective gear so both you and your dog are easier to spot.
Food and drink – If your dog loves to spend time out in the cold, make sure you increase his or her protein levels. Also make sure there is plenty of clean, unfrozen water to keep your pet hydrated.
Writers note - The dogs pictured here were not left in the cold. They are all spoiled rescue pets of the various readers of Raining Cats & Dogs. Check back tomorrow for some pet products to help your dog in the winter.
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