Safety

Winter wellness: Protect your pets

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Photo: Tuutikka/iStockphoto

Cold weather safety precautions aren’t just for humans. Our four-legged friends need protection from frigid temperatures, too.

“Just like people, pets’ cold tolerance can vary from pet to pet based on their coat, body fat stores, activity level and health,” says the American Veterinary Medical Association, which wants you to be aware of your pet’s tolerance for cold weather and adjust accordingly. This may mean shorter walks for your dog and watching the ground closely for snow and ice to prevent slipping or falling.

If your pet has short hair, its body may come in direct contact with the snow or cold ground when walking, so a protective doggy vest or sweater might be a good idea. Booties are available for your pet’s paws.

After a walk, check your pet’s paws for cracks or bleeding. Ice can get trapped in between toes, so clean that buildup from your pet’s paws if you see it. One way to help prevent this is keeping the hair around their paws trimmed and neat.

Do your pets have diabetes, heart disease or kidney issues? If they do, they have a harder time regulating their body temperature, making them more susceptible to cold temps. Keep their walks short.

These aren’t the only winter-related issues for pets. Just like us, pets can get frostbite and hypothermia.

“If your pet is whining, shivering, seems anxious, slows down or stops moving, seems weak, or starts looking for warm places to burrow, get them back inside quickly because they are showing signs of hypothermia,” the AVMA says. Frostbite is harder to detect. If you suspect your pet has either condition, contact your veterinarian.

Another thing to look for? Your pet’s feet and belly coming in contact with de-icers, antifreeze or other chemicals. Once you’re home from a walk, wipe your pet’s paws, belly, legs and any other areas that may come in contact with these poisonous-to-your-pet chemicals.

And remember: No pet should be kept outside for long periods of time – especially in extreme temperatures. Indoors is the safest place.

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