It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year–maybe

Sorry this post is late but we have a family medical emergency going on, your prayers are appreciated.

Most of you are in the northern hemisphere, where it’s getting colder and wetter. And most of you will be celebrating Christmas or Channukah and Thanksgiving, and there are pet safety issues to consider for both celebrations and weather. Let’s deal with cold weather first.

Just because your pet has a fur coat doesn’t mean she’s immune to frostbite or hypothermia (low body temperature). And don’t rely solely on temperature–remember the wind chill factor too. (And the lake effect if you’re near the Great Lakes.) If your pet is allowed outdoors, it needs some way to get into the warm house if you’re not there–some sort of pet door. If you don’t have one, you must supervise outdoor play time. If your pet is shivering or vocalizing, or hopping around because its paws are cold, it’s time to come in! Your cat can of course use the litter box for her needs, but if your dog needs to go out to do his business, check into the doggie booties available, for two reasons: the obvious one, which is to keep his paws warm and safe from cuts from ice and snow, and the one you may not have considered: chemicals. Many cities use chemicals to melt ice and snow on the road, instead of using just salt and/or sand. If the chemicals are corrosive enough to melt ice, they’re obviously unsafe for consumption. If you pet goes into the snow & ice without protective foot wear, be sure to clean the paws immediately when he comes in, remove all traces of ice & snow. And if you have a smaller breed dog, don’t let anyone’s derision keep you keeping you dog warmer with a doggie coat.

As with people, very old and very young pets are more susceptible to the cold than adult animal in his prime. They become hypothermic more quickly and it can cause them to become ill. It can be life-threatening, so my advice would be that if Fluffy or Fido are very old or very young, keep them indoors as much as possible.

If I can’t convince you to keep your dog inside as much as possible or to get a pet door, then you MUST have an appropriately sized shelter outside. Dogs heat the space they’re in with their body heat, so it shouldn’t be too big or they’ll freeze. It must be weatherproof, face away from prevailing winds, be elevated at least six inches from the ground and insulated. Many dog house incorporate these features, as well as having a “hallway” which keeps winds and precipitation from blowing directly into the shelter. Also, blankets and traditional bedding will quickly freeze and suck the heat out of the animal. Frequently changed straw is recommended. DO NOT TRY TO HEAT THE DOG HOUSE WITH HUMAN HEAT LAMPS OR SPACE HEATERS–it’s dangerous to the pet and could easily start a fire! Doesn’t this sound pretty complicated? I’d think keeping Fido indoors as much as possible would be a lot easier.

But if you do keep them in, give them as much indoor exercise as possible. Avoid close-clipped grooming because your pet’s coat is SUPPOSED to grow longer in winter to keep her warm–and if the pet absolutely must be bathed, be sure she’s COMPLETELY dry before she’s allowed outside–picture icicles on her fur!

Next time we’ll talk about holiday decorations, food and extra humans at your house–stay tuned!

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3 Responses to “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year–maybe”

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    • Julie Richard November 27, 2011 at 9:56 pm #

      Thanks. Holiday season posts will be devoted to pet holiday safety and health, but much is also applicable to small children! Have a safe and happy holiday season!

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