PICKENS COUNTY — Everyone by now has heard the warnings about leaving pets in hot cars during the Summer months but come Winter, there’s a whole new set of dangers people need to be aware of to better protect their furry friends.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), there is no reason for pets to suffer needlessly in the cold and there are things you can do to lesson the season’s impact.
First off, get proactive: The old saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” rings especially true in this case. Simply taking steps to keep your pets safe can head off a majority of common cold-weather problems.
For instance, has your pet had a recent trip to the vet? No? Might want to reconsider that one …
The AVMA states Winter may worsen some medical conditions such as arthritis.
“Your pet should be examined by a veterinarian at least once a year and it’s as good a time as any to get him/her checked out to make sure (s)he is ready and as healthy as possible for cold weather,” they said.
But even with a clean bill of health, it’s a good idea to know their limits.
“Just like people, pets’ cold tolerance can vary from pet to pet based on their coat, body fat stores, activity level and health,” the AVMA states. “Be aware of your pet’s tolerance for cold weather and adjust accordingly. You will probably need to shorten your dog’s walks in very cold weather to protect you both from weather-associated health risks. Arthritic and elderly pets may have more difficulty walking on snow and ice and may be more prone to slipping and falling. Long-haired or thick-coated dogs tend to be more cold-tolerant, but are still at risk in cold weather.”
Short-haired pets feel the cold faster because they have less protection and short-legged pets may become cold faster because their bellies and bodies are more likely to come into contact with snow-covered ground, the agency stated.
They also warn that pets with diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, or hormonal imbalances (such as Cushing’s disease) may have a harder time regulating their body temperature — making them more susceptible to problems from temperature extremes.
The same goes for very young and very old pets. If you need help determining your pet’s temperature limits, consult your veterinarian.
But remember, it’s not just dogs …
“Cats and dogs should be kept inside during cold weather. It’s a common belief that dogs and cats are resistant than people to cold weather because of their fur, but it’s untrue,” the AVMA stated. “Like people, cats and dogs are susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia and should be kept inside.”
Also, a warm vehicle engine can be an appealing heat source for outdoor and feral cats — but it’s deadly.
“Be sure to check underneath your car, bang on the hood and honk the horn before starting the engine to encourage feline hitchhikers to abandon their roost under the hood,” they said.
If your dog has a short coat or seems bothered by the cold weather, consider a sweater or dog coat. Have several on hand, so you can use a dry sweater or coat each time your dog goes outside. Wet sweaters or coats can actually make your dog colder. Some pet owners also use booties to protect their dog’s feet; if you choose to use them, make sure they fit properly, AVMA states.
OK, so you’ve got the basics down. But there are a few things pet owners tend to forget about, like lost pets.
“Many pets become lost in winter because snow and ice can hide recognizable scents that might normally help your pet find his/her way back home,” the agency stated. “Make sure your pet has a well-fitting collar with up-to-date identification and contact information. A microchip is a more permanent means of identification — but it’s critical that you keep the registration up to date.”
Sometimes, no matter the circumstances, it’s just not possible to bring pets indoors. In that case the AVMA warns people to protect them as much as possible by provide them with a warm, solid shelter against wind and make sure that they have unlimited access to fresh, non-frozen water.
“The floor of the shelter should be off of the ground (to minimize heat loss into the ground) and the bedding should be thick, dry and changed regularly to provide a warm, dry environment,” they said. “The door to the shelter should be positioned away from prevailing winds. Space heaters and heat lamps should be avoided because of the risk of burns or fire. Heated pet mats should also be used with caution because they are still capable of causing burns.”
The AVMA states if your pet is whining, shivering, seems anxious, slows down or stops moving, seems weak, or starts looking for warm places to burrow, get them back inside quickly because they are showing signs of hypothermia.
“Frostbite is harder to detect and may not be fully recognized until a few days after the damage is done,” they stated. “If you suspect your pet has hypothermia or frostbite, consult your veterinarian immediately.”
Reach Kasie Strickland at 864-855-0355.