by the American Animal Hospital Association
It’s that time of year– to snuggle up in front of a fireplace with a warm kitty on your lap or a puppy at your feet. But before you settle down to your long winter’s nap, take some time to learn how to keep those animals as warm and comfortable as you are.
Cold weather can be hard on pets, just like it can be hard on people. Sometimes owners forget that their pets are just as accustomed to the warm shelter of the indoors as they are. Some owners will leave their animals outside for extended periods of time, thinking that all animals are adapted to live outdoors. This can put their pets in danger of serious illness. There are things you can do to keep your animal warm and safe.
Keep your pets inside as much as you can when the mercury drops. If you have to take them out, stay outside with them. When you’re cold enough to go inside, they probably are too. If you absolutely must leave them outside for a significant length of time, make sure they have a warm, solid shelter against the wind, thick bedding, and plenty of non-frozen water. Try leaving out a hot water bottle, wrapped in a towel so it won’t burn your pet’s skin.
Some animals can remain outside safely longer in the winter than others. In some cases, it’s just common sense: long-haired breeds like Huskies will do better in cold weather than short-haired breeds like Dachshunds. Your pet’s health will also affect how long she can stay out. Conditions like diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, and hormonal imbalances can compromise a pet’s ability to regulate her own body heat. Animals that are not generally in good health shouldn’t be exposed to winter weather for a long period of time. Very young and very old animals are vulnerable to the cold as well. Regardless of their health, though, no pets should stay outside for unlimited amounts of time in freezing cold weather..
Cats will curl up against almost anything to stay warm–including car engines. Cats caught in moving engine parts can be seriously hurt or killed. Before you turn your engine on, check beneath the car or make a lot of noise by honking the horn or rapping on the hood.
If you light a fire or plug in a space heater to keep your home toasty warm, remember that the heat will be as attractive to your pets as to you. As your dog or cat snuggles up to the warmth, keep an eye out to make sure that no tails or paws come in contact with flames, heating coils, or hot surfaces. Pets can either burn themselves or knock a heat source over and put the entire household in danger.
Be particularly gentle with elderly and arthritic pets during the winter. The cold can leave their joints extremely stiff and tender, and they may become more awkward than usual. Stay directly below these pets when they are climbing stairs or jumping onto furniture; consider modifying their environment to make it easier for them to get around. Make sure they have a thick, soft bed in a warm room for the chilly nights. Also, watch stiff and arthritic pets if you walk them outside; a bad slip on the ice could be very painful and cause a significant injury.
Go ahead and put that sweater on Princess, if she’ll put up with it. It will help a little, but you can’t depend on it entirely to keep her warm. Pets lose most of their body heat from the pads of their feet, their ears, and their respiratory tract. The best way to guard your animals against the cold is keeping a close eye on them to make sure they’re comfortable.
When you’re outside with your pets during the winter, you can watch them for signs of discomfort with the cold. If they whine, shiver, seem anxious, slow down or stop moving, or start to look for warm places to burrow, they’re saying they want to get back someplace warm.
Winter can be a beautiful time of year. It can be a dangerous time as well, but it certainly doesn’t have to be. If you take some precautions, you and your pet can have a fabulous time taking in a winter walk or playing outside.Content provided by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA). Visit the AAHA pet owner website at www.healthypet.com for more pet care advice and to find an AAHA-accredited veterinary hospital near you