Colorado State University Veterinarians Offer Winter and Holiday Health Tips for Animals

Note to Reporters: The following are helpful tips to pet owners offered by veterinarians at Colorado State University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital. The paragraphs can be used alone as filler or in a group as a set of tips. If you need additional information, please contact Dell Rae Moellenberg at (970) 491-6009 or If you’d like to include additional source information, please attribute these tips to Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

The following information provides seasonal advice and information for pet owners.

Work with veterinarian to determine if complementary medicine options hurt or help pet
Looking for information about your pet’s health online? The amount of medical misinformation on the internet, especially for complementary and alternative medicine, is staggering.

Your veterinarian may struggle to give you good advice about using complementary and alternative medicine for your pet because there is very little evidence-based research on these treatments for pets. Despite lack of scientific evidence, consumers buy herbs and supplements for their pets – often online without the benefit of a veterinary exam.

The FDA stipulates different regulations on dietary supplements, including herbs, for humans and animals, and dietary supplements for animals are still regulated. About 180 botanical species are currently marketed or in use by animal health professionals in the United States. Most products on the market for pets are unsafe and unapproved for current uses, according to the FDA. They’re only on the market because the FDA doesn’t have the resources to remove them.

While some complementary approaches may definitely provide a solution to your pet’s problem, others may cause harm. Some articles in lay publications have even offered advice about complementary medicine that is harmful to pets. For example, some suggest that pennyroyal oil as a treatment for fleas on pets. Pennyroyal is highly toxic and even small amounts have caused the death of animals. Another lay publication suggested having pets ingest comfrey as a way to promote healthy bones; comfrey causes irreversible liver damage.

Until more is known, pet owners need to work with their veterinarians to find scientific information from human medicine literature to help discern fact from fiction.
This information is provided as a service of Colorado State University veterinarians.

Tips for getting horse with fractured leg to hospital, clinic
Most horses with fractured legs need to be referred to a facility that can deal with challenges of fracture repair. Transporting an injured horse to a veterinary hospital is tricky and should be carefully done to minimize additional trauma to the leg during movement.

An important goal is to minimize additional injury to the outside tissue and prevent the skin over the fracture wound from opening.

First, consult with a veterinarian, even if by phone, regarding proper bandaging and splinting of the leg for transport. If possible, splints and bandages should be applied in a specific manner dependent upon the location of the fracture. A splint or bandage should extend beyond the joint above and below the fracture point.

In general, horses with a fracture should be loaded and confined in a trailer for transport. A trailer provides them with the best chance to support themselves without putting additional weight on a fractured limb and further injuring their leg. It’s often best to load the horse with the fractured leg facing the back of the trailer. If the driver has to slow or stop quickly, the horse will be able to use its good legs for support. The horse also should be confined as much as possible to allow it to support itself against the trailer when it is turning. Do not turn a horse loose in a trailer to find it own comfortable position.
This information is provided as a service of Colorado State University veterinarians.

Pets, the flu and you
Although rare, H1N1 has been discovered in ferrets and cats. At this time, there is no reason to believe that ill pets can pass H1N1 to people, but people can cause H1N1 illnesses in pets.

Because this strain of H1N1 is new, information about how it impacts animals is limited. It is possible that any animal may be susceptible to H1N1, but no other cases have been documented in companion animals. However, dogs and pet birds have been susceptible to other strains of the flu.

People with the flu should be careful when in contact with their pets. Practice social distancing with pets as well as people. People who are ill should wash their hands before handling pets and, if possible, have someone who is well feed and care for pets. Just like people, pets are exposed to H1N1 through aerosols — fluids released when someone sneezes, coughs or touches their face and then a surface. Because there have only been a few cases of H1N1 flu in pets, veterinarians have limited information about the symptoms. Pets with H1N1 may behave as if they aren’t feeling well, acting lethargic and may appear to have a respiratory illness. If a pet seems ill, it should be taken to a veterinarian for an exam as soon as possible and the veterinarian should be alerted that the pet has been exposed to someone with influenza.
This information is provided as a service of Colorado State University veterinarians.

Cold holidays and winters for pets
Many people remember to winterize their homes and cars for Colorado’s colder weather, and it’s also important to remember to pay special attention to keeping pets safe and warm. During cold weather, pets need extra shelter and outdoor pets may need to be brought inside. When temperatures dip below 32 degrees, it’s a dangerous time for pets – but even warmer temperatures can be dangerous for your pet if it is wet.

Outdoor pets need appropriate shelter to protect them from frigid temperatures. Make sure they have access to shelter such as a building or garage that is stocked with food and water. If necessary, provide them with a heated water dish to prevent the water from freezing. It is also important to be on the lookout for pets seeking warmth in dangerous places such as under warm vehicles.

Consult with your veterinarian about any dietary adjustments for optimal health during the winter. Active pets may need extra calories.

When walking a dog in cold weather, remember that their feet are unprotected from cold, so keep walks short – or suspend them during especially frigid weather – and examine their paws before and after each time you exercise to ensure that they aren’t injured. When letting pets outside, do so only briefly during extreme cold.

Pets can experience hypothermia and frostbite. Signs that your pet is in trouble and needs immediate veterinary attention include shivering, acting disoriented and lethargic, or its hair puffed out and standing on end. Signs of frostbite include changes in skin color, such as bright red, pale or black. Skin at the tips of ears, on extremities and the scrotum are particularly at risk.
This information is provided as a service of Colorado State University veterinarians.

Keeping pets safe during the holidays and winter
The holidays and winter can be life-threatening for pets, with extra health hazards presenting issues.

Antifreeze is tasty but fatal to pets unless emergency care is started within a few hours. Even small amounts of the substance licked off a cat or dog’s paws or lapped off the sidewalk could be life-threatening. Store antifreeze in an area away from pets, and immediately clean up any spills or leaks. If you suspect a pet has ingested antifreeze, seek emergency veterinary care. Symptoms of antifreeze poisoning include drunken-like behavior, vomiting, excessive urination and drinking, and acting depressed and moving unstably. Pets may appear to recover within a few hours, but antifreeze continues to poison their system and is often fatal.

Holiday decorations also are interesting distractions, but cats or dogs that ingest decorations and tinsel could end up with a completely obstructed intestinal tract, which can be fatal. Secure ornaments tightly to Christmas trees to prevent pets from playing with them and breaking them, leading to cuts. Christmas trees in homes with particularly mischievous pets may need to be secured to hooks on a nearby wall with guide wires to prevent the pets from knocking the tree over.

Holiday parties also present a hazard. Pets should be kept in a safe place during celebrations, away from children who may play with them too roughly and an opportunity to sneak potentially hazardous food discarded by guests.

This information is provided as a service of Colorado State University veterinarians.