|Protecting Pets From The Big Chill
Keeping pets happy, healthy and warm during colder weather may be easier with some tips from the experts.
"There are a variety of dangers associated with cold weather and pets," says Dr. Kathleen Neuhoff, American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) president. "Pet owners can take a few simple steps to ensure that their pet braves the cold winter months."
AAHA offers the following tips:
• Take pets for a checkup before cold weather kicks in. Your veterinarian can check for medical problems that might make your pet more vulnerable to the cold.
• Keep pets inside as much as you can when the mercury drops. If you must leave your pet outside, provide appropriate shelter against the wind, thick bedding and nonfrozen water.
• Depending on their size, age, health and thickness of their fur, some animals are more vulnerable to cold than others. No pets should stay outside for unlimited amounts of time in extremely cold weather.
• Pets that go outside can accumulate rock salt, ice and chemical ice melts in their foot pads. To keep pads from getting chapped and raw, wipe their feet with a washcloth when pets come inside.
• Cats will curl up against almost anything to stay warm-including car engines. Before you start your engine, check beneath the hood or make a lot of noise by honking the horn or rapping on the hood.
• If you light a fire or plug in a space heater, keep it safely out of range of tails and paws. Pets can burn themselves or knock a heat source over, endangering the entire household.
• Be particularly gentle with elderly and arthritic pets during the winter. The cold can leave their joints extremely stiff and tender and they may become more awkward than usual. Consider modifying their environment to make it easier for them to get around.
Frostbite and hypothermia are dangerous possibilities in the winter. Frostbite happens when the ears, paws or tail get cold enough that ice crystals form in the tissue and cause damage. If you suspect frostbite, bring your pet into a warm environment immediately, soak the extremities in warm water for about 20 minutes, and visit the veterinarian.
Hypothermia, or body temperature that is below normal, occurs when animals are overexposed to cold temperatures. Symptoms can range from shivering and lethargy in mild cases to stiff muscles, low heart and breathing rates, and unresponsiveness. If you notice these symptoms, warm your pet and seek care immediately.
When you're outside with your pets during the winter, watch them for signs of discomfort. If they whine, shiver, seem anxious, slow down or stop moving, or start to look for warm places to burrow, they need to be taken inside.
Animal Hospital Association is an international organization of more than