As we prepare our homes and our cars for cold days, we should also pay special attention to our pets. Below are some tips for "winterizing" Fluffy and Fido. These tips are provided by the veterinarians at Colorado State University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital. Veterinary experts are available for interviews by contacting Karen Wheeler at (970) 491-6435.
- Outdoor pets need appropriate shelter to protect them from frigid temperatures. Housing should be insulated, elevated, watertight and protected from high winds. Bedding should be clean and dry. Because pets use their body heat to keep warm, the shelter should be small enough to help preserve that body heat.
- Outdoor cats may seek the shelter of a parked car, getting under the hood to stay warm and dry. Before starting a car, raise the hood to check for sheltering cats or bang on the hood loudly.
- Pets that customarily stay indoors should be kept indoors or allowed out only for very brief periods. For shorthaired dogs, puppies, older dogs or those with health problems, a dog sweater or jacket should always be worn when going out for short walks.
- A good diet is even more important for outdoor pets during the winter months. Pets need more food in order to generate enough energy to deal with frigid temperatures, so feed your pet more frequently.
- Make sure your pet has access to water during cold weather. Outdoor pets cannot consume enough snow to prevent dehydration.
- Indoor pets may require less food, since they tend to be less active and expend less energy.
- Additional supplements are not needed unless your veterinarian advises otherwise.
- Monitor any weight gain or loss and adjust food portions accordingly. If there is a considerable increase or decrease of weight, consult your veterinarian.
- Conduct regular "paw checks" for outdoor dogs. Clean away snow or ice from between toes and dry paw pads thoroughly. Moisture, salt and other de-icers spread on sidewalks can be trapped between toes and cause sores. Also, many de-icers irritate paw pads and cause them to bleed. Paw protectors are available at pet stores or through many pet catalogues.
- Keep your animal dry. Wet coats can be a health hazard. If your animal gets wet, be sure to dry him or her thoroughly.
- Animals are subject to frostbite the same as humans, especially the ears, paw pads and tails. Signs are reddened, white or grayish tissue, evidence of shock and shedding of dead skin.
- A dog or cat who has suffered frostbite should be taken immediately to a veterinarian. If this is not possible, quickly warm the affected area by using warm, NOT HOT, moist towels, which should be changed frequently. As the affected tissues become flushed or reddened, discontinue the warming and apply a clean, dry, non-adhering bandage.
- Carefully store antifreeze where pets cannot reach it. Antifreeze has a sweet taste, which makes it appealing to pets, but it is highly toxic. If you think your pet has ingested antifreeze, contact your local poison control center or call the Rocky Mountain Poison Control Center at 800-332-3073.
- Frequent brushing of indoor pets is even more important in winter. Low humidity can lead to dry, itchy skin and increase shedding. Frequent brushing helps remove dead skin and hair and helps stimulate oil glands.
- Kittens and puppies should never be left outdoors in cold temperatures. Their small size and low body weight makes it impossible to generate enough heat to protect themselves.