(ARA) – Jack Frost is nipping at your pet’s nose. Winter is here again, and cold weather can be uncomfortable and dangerous to your pet.
“In colder regions of the country, pet owners should already know that they need to make accommodations for their pets, but winter can be hard on a pet even in warmer states, like Georgia, where I work,” says Dr. Larry R. Corry, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). “While we don’t get a lot of snow, it does get cold in the winter, and when it gets below freezing, our recommendation is that pet owners get their pets inside.”
Here are the AVMA’s top 10 winter tips for pet owners:
* Even if you own a sled dog, living outside during the depths of winter is very difficult. If you must keep your dog outside year round, remember that dogs must be allowed time to get acclimated to the cold with the change of the seasons. This builds up a winter coat they will need to survive. Corry recommends that dog owners with outside dogs double check to make sure their dog’s housing is well insulated, including straw or padding to sleep on.
“If you want to heat a doghouse, be careful to ensure that the heat source is installed properly so that the animal cannot be hurt,” he says. “If you can’t or won’t bring the animal into your home, consider bringing it inside a garage on bitter cold days.”
* Corry also advises pet owners to refrain from taking their pets near frozen ponds. Many dogs and cats fall through or sometimes are cast adrift on an ice float.
* Keep your pet away from antifreeze with ethylene glycol. It’s sweet and extremely lethal, even in small doses. The AVMA provides a brochure and video on this and other household hazards and poisons.
* Honk your horn or pound on the hood before starting your car on cold days. To a cat, a warm engine block can seem like a nice escape from cold winter winds.
* Carbon monoxide is just as lethal to pets as it is for people. Make sure your home has a carbon monoxide detector, and, if you bring your pet from the outdoors into a garage during the winter, make sure exhaust fumes from your car aren’t allowed to build up inside.
* Cold air is dry air, so your pet can become dehydrated easily in the winter. Give him plenty of fresh water. If the bowl of water you put outside for your dog or cat freezes, it’s of no use to the animal.
* Road salt and ice melting products are not only irritating to the pads on your pet’s feet, but when your pet cleans itself by licking off these chemicals and ingesting them, they can cause gastrointestinal problems. Wash your pet’s feet after she’s been outdoors.
* Consider booties for your dog’s feet. Booties help prevent ice balls between the toes that can be both painful and do damage to the toe pads.
* Be careful about candles, space heaters and fireplaces – pets can get burned and even set the house on fire.
* Pay close attention to your older pet in winter, especially if he suffers from arthritis. Arthritic pain is even worse in icy winds and cold temperatures. Seek the advice of your veterinarian to help your pet cope with arthritis.
For more information about animal health, visit www.avma.org.