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Cats, Dogs

CRITTER CHATTER: “Baby, it’s cold outside”

By Dr. Phil

There is snow on the Rockies, pumpkins in the farm stands and Halloween costumes for sale in Costco. But it’s 93° in Burlington Vermont, and I am having trouble thinking about getting ready for cold weather. However, I know it’s coming and that exposure to dry, cold air and chilly rain, sleet and snow can cause discomfort to pets. So now is the time to think about preparing you and your pet for winter.

Inspect your furnace.

Inspect your furnace to make sure it’s working efficiently and install carbon monoxide detectors if you don’t have any. If you live east of the Rockies, be sure your snow blowers are operable and you haven’t hidden your snow shovels beneath the beach gear. If you live in the west, make sure your gutters are clean and enjoy the sun.

Clean up any spills.

If you use any antifreeze in your house or windshield washer fluids, be sure to clean up any spills so that your dog or cat cannot ingest it. Many animals like its sweet taste, and ethylene glycol, a common component of antifreeze, can cause kidney failure resulting in death. It is safer to use products containing non-toxic propylene glycol.

Keep your pet warm.

Make sure that your pet has a warm place to sleep away from drafts, but not too close to wood stoves or hot heat registers. A dog or cat bed with a warm snuggly blanket is ideal.  Winter is an occasion to clean and change bedding regularly, but not a good time to bathe your pet because it can remove essential oils resulting in dry flaky skin. Winter is also not a good time to shave your dog, although trimming longhaired dogs can help reduce ice ball attachment and promote faster drying after playing in the rain and snow. A coat or sweater is often beneficial to shorthaired dogs, just don’t force them to wear a design they might be embarrassed to be seen in.

Many animals enjoy being outside in cold weather, but sometimes it’s simply too chilly to be outside.  If it’s too cold for you, it’s probably too cold for them. When the outside temperature falls below 50°F, small and medium sized dogs can become chilled. Larger dogs, however, seem to tolerate temperatures to 40°. It is particularly important to bring puppies and kittens inside when the temperature falls below 40°F. If your pet’s ears feel cold around the edges and their bodies feel cold to the touch, get them inside and cover them with a blanket. Always avoid frozen bodies of water, as ice is often thinner than it looks.

Protect their paws.

Cold, snow, ice, salt and rain can damage your pet’s paws. Always wipe their feet with a dry clean cloth after outside walks, and check carefully between the pads to make sure there is no redness or that any ice crystals remain. Booties or paw protectants applied before going outside are quite helpful, especially in rain, snow and ice. If you do use a paw protectant, wipe it from your dog’s feet before coming inside.

In spite of the extra precautions that must be taken in cold weather, winter can be a fun time for you and your pet. My dog loves to bury her head in the snow and then come inside and watch it melt on the carpets, knowing that she will get an extra treat (for the added calories needed in cold climates) and a good rubbing with a warm, clean towel.  It may be cold outside, but life is pretty good inside.

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