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Preparing Your Pet for the Winter

Preparing Your Pet for the Winter

This winter, while you curl up next to the fire with a cozy blanket, a good book and some hot chocolate, don't forget about your pet! Winter can play it rough with your pet and you have to look out for his health and well-being. Here are some preparations you should make to help your pet prepare for the winter.

Nutrition - Perhaps the most important consideration for preparing your pet for winter is nutrition. Outdoor pets in particular require more calories in the winter to generate enough energy to cope with cold. A high quality nutritionally balanced diet is adequate to meet these increased demands, therefore most pets will not require supplementation with vitamins. In addition to a good diet, fresh water should be offered several times a day. However, when temperatures dip below freezing, Rover's water will turn into ice, leaving him high and dry. If you have an outdoor dog, consider investing in a heated water bowl.

dog_symptoms_shaking.jpgShelter - While dogs and cats do have fur coats, they're still vulnerable to wind and water. If your pet lives outdoors, provide a fully sheltered den with dry bedding; special pet-safe heating pads can provide extra warmth. The shelter should be elevated, insulated, wind- and watertight. The shelter should not be so large that they cannot preserve their body heat. But if the wind chill dips to 20 below, bring them inside.

Health - Shivering is the earliest indication your pet is too cold. As hypothermia progresses, the pet becomes lethargic and weak, and his gums may turn pale or bluish. Frostbite is dangerous because it normally goes unnoticed beneath fur. It affects ears, feet, tail, scrotum and mammary glands. After the initial numbness, pain and skin sloughing may occur. Don't leave your pet outdoors after cold-weather exercise. Dry your pet off and bring it indoors and let it rest and get warm.

Hazards - Salts and other chemicals used to clear streets and sidewalks can irritate pets' feet. Check the labels if you use snow or ice melt to make sure they are animal-safe. Another winter hazard to pets is antifreeze, which is extremely toxic. Store antifreeze where it cannot be reached by pets and/or children. If you suspect that your pet has ingested antifreeze, do not wait for symptoms- get your pet to your veterinarian immediately. Indoor pets face special challenges, too. Vets see more cats with respiratory ailments in the winter due to long-term exposure to wood smoke, so good ventilation is important. To avoid any complications it is best to take your pet to have a check-up before the worst of the winter kicks in.

Winter Blues - Fewer hours of day light mean fewer opportunities for outdoor exercise during the winter months. Energetic dogs who require lots of active play can become frustrated and depressed and this can lead to a variety of problem behaviors- from barking and howling, to chewing furniture or messing in the house. Experts believe that pets, especially dogs, do not get the winter blues. They believe that your pet's lethargic and depressed behavior mirror your own feelings, as most pets are very sensitive to the emotional condition of their owners. Therefore, if you are prone to developing winter blues, take care of yourself (and your pet). Eat healthy and include regular exercise and fresh air in your daily program. Go for walk with your pet or play in the park for a few minutes. Fresh air and sunlight are the two most important ingredients that fight winter blues.

Holiday Hazards for Your Pet

As the holidays approach we're all anticipating gatherings with friends and family members, celebrations, and loads of delicious food and treats. During all the celebrating our pets can be exposed a number of hazards. Awareness and prevention are key to helping ensure our family and our pets enjoy a safe and happy holiday season. turkey2.jpg

Foods - Many of the foods we enjoy during the holidays may seem to be safe to give your pet, but most of them are higher in fat than your pet's regular diet.  Increased fat intake can cause mild signs such as loose stool, vomiting, and even flatulence (gas). More severe problems associated with increased fat intake include pancreatitis, a potentially life-threatening illness. Feeding table foods may also cause Fido to become more finnicky about eating his normal diet. Be extra careful over the holidays tart8.jpgwhen disposing of food items, as pets can raid trash cans and table tops in the quest for some delicious "human food".  Some foods are a risk because they may be toxic for your pet. These include chocolate, onions, garlic, grapes and raisins, nuts, spoiled foods, salt, yeast dough, gums and candies, and foods sweetened with xylitol. If you want to give your pet some special treats during the holidays, select pet treats that are low in fat and easily digestible. Your pet will  feel like they've received that special treat, and you'll avoid an emergency trip to the veterinarian.

Household items - During the holiday season many people decorate their homes and yards. We may also have medications to help us feel better during the cold and flu season.  Dangerous household items for your pets include cold medicines, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, liquid potpourri, tree decorations such as tinsel and small items can swallowed, ashes from a fireplace or batteries from a toy can be ingested.  Awareness is the best prevention. Monitor your pet around holiday decorations and if your pet is left unattended, house them in a section of your home that will prevent their exposure to potential risks. As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

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Have a Safe and Happy Thanksgiving!

from the Doctors and Staff of Crabapple Knoll Veterinary Clinic