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Keeping your pet safe in the winter months

Tips for keeping you cat or dog safe in the winter months

The winter months can be hard on your cat and dog. Here are some tips from Dr. Susan Nelson, assistant professor of veterinary medicine at Kansas State University, to keep your pet safe when the temperature dips:

Keep all antifreeze away from pets. It has a sweet taste, is very palatable and does not take very much to kill your pet. Clean up any spills as soon as possible. If you think your pet has ingested any, seek medical attention immediately. It is important to start treatment within the first few hours to try to reduce the damage to the kidneys. Untreated animals usually die from kidney failure.

The salt used to melt ice and snow can cause irritation to pet footpads/skin and to their gastrointestinal tract if ingested. You can protect your pet by putting baby oil, cooking spray or dog booties on their feet. Make sure to thoroughly wash off the feet and body if your pet does come into contact with the rock salt.

Consider a jacket for short-coated dogs when outside.

Dog houses should not be too big, because heat is not conserved in a house too large for the dog. The dog should be able to get up and turn around comfortably, with the ceiling just high enough to clear the dog’s head. The dog house should have airtight walls, and it’s best if the door faces south or west. Instead of using blankets that hold moisture and mat down, use clean straw or hay. It’s also good to have a flap over the door to keep out wind and precipitation.

Allow your dog or cat to acclimate to the weather if it hasn’t been out much. Bring in pets if possible in subfreezing conditions and harsh winds. Check on your pet at least once or twice a day.

Always make sure your pet has fresh, clean water. Check the water regularly to make sure it’s not frozen.

A pet needs more food if he or she stays outside in the winter, because they need more calorie intake to produce extra body heat. On the other hand, indoor dogs should generally be fed less during the winter.

Don’t give your pet holiday food — alcoholic beverages, candy, chocolate, turkey and dressing, pork, fish, bones — as all can cause vomiting, diarrhea or pancreatitis. Also, many people do not realize that chocolate can be a poison. Clinical signs of chocolate poisoning include hyperexcitability, nervousness, vomiting and diarrhea and can result in death. Dark chocolate and baking chocolate are the most dangerous.

Have a "safe" place for your pet when company is over for the holidays. Some animals get very nervous or distressed with a house full of guests.

Holiday paraphernalia — pine needles, ornaments, yarn, tinsel, ribbons, etc. — can be harmful to pets if ingested. These things all need to be kept out of a pet’s reach.

Cats and kittens like the warmth of car engines. Slap the hood of your car and honk your horn before starting your car in the morning if you own a cat or there are any cats in the neighborhood.

Nelson has been at K-State since the fall of 2003. Prior to that she served as an associate veterinarian at a small animal hospital in Manhattan for 14 years. Nelson received her bachelor’s degree from Hastings College and her doctorate of veterinary medicine from K-State in 1989.

 

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