The last few leaves are falling and as the cold fronts move in, we’re preparing for anotherPittsburghwinter. Of course, that means that in addition to preparing to bundle ourselves up, we need to think about our pets as well.
As beautiful as the holiday season may be, the cold and many of the things we do during the holidays are also potentially dangerous for pets. With a few precautions and steps, however, you and your pet can enjoy the holiday season safely.
Here are only a few of the things pet owners should consider:
1. Consider taking your pet to a vet for a quick check-up to make sure they don’t have any conditions that would put them in danger of serious illness during the winter. This is also a good time to ask about general recommendations for winter care for each individual pet, such as possible changes in diet.
2. Try to keep your pets indoors. Some owners leave their animals outside and assume they’re capable of staying warm and healthy. Many pets, though, are used to living indoors more often than outdoors; others do not have fur coats that can handle the cold effectively.
3. If you do leave your animals outdoors for a significant period of time, provide them with a warm and comfortable shelter that protects them from the wind and ice. Also provide them with bedding and unfrozen water in this shelter. (Remember: consider your pet’s health before letting them outside. Conditions like diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, and hormonal imbalances can compromise a pet’s ability to regulate her own body heat.) If you have any questions about how long your pet should be out this winter, ask your veterinarian.
4. Check your car engine during the winter by honking the horn or rapping on the hood before you turn your engine on. Pet and stray cats alike will curl up near anything that gives off heat, including engines, to stay warm.
5. If you use a fireplace or space heater, remember that your pets will be drawn to the heat. Make sure that no tails or paws come in contact with flames, heating coils, or hot surfaces. Also monitor your animals’ movements closely so they don’t knock anything over and cause damage, either.
6. If your dog or cat goes outside, they can pick up rock salt, ice, and chemical ice melts in their foot pads. To keep your pet’s pads from getting chapped and raw, wipe their feet with a washcloth when they come inside. This also keeps them from cleaning their own paws and protects their digestive system. Consider trimming the long fur around these pads if your animal will tolerate it – just be careful not to cut too short and irritate the pads.
7. Provide your pet with plenty of water. They get dehydrated just like we do in the winter.
8. Provide extra comfort for your elderly animals in the form of extra bedding, as the cold affects their tender and stiffening joints. Also be careful when taking them for a walk, as they could slip very easily.
9. Remember – as we prepare for the holidays, many of the items we bring into the house pose a risk for our pets. Bones in our turkey, fat in various dishes, and holiday plants cause a variety of problems if consumed. Some cause a minor upset stomach while others are extremely hazardous to a pet’s health. Also remember to keep an eye on electrical cords, candles, pine needles, and decorations, which dogs and cats may try to play with or chew on.
10. Groom your dog on a regular basis so that its fur coat can do its job and keep them insulted and comfortable. Short-haired dogs can wear sweaters if they’ll tolerate them.
11. Be aware of the risks from antifreeze, frostbite, and so forth.
Taking steps like these should ensure that you and your pet both live comfortably as you celebrate during the winter months.
BY LARISSA GULA