Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Winter blues, Winter do's
Winter Blues, Winter Do’s
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 live near a pond or lake, be very cautious about letting your dog off the leash. Animals can easily fall through the ice, and it is very difficult for them to climb out on their own. If you must let your dogs loose near open water, stay with them at all times.
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 it is 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.
It’s a good idea to have your furnace checked for carbon monoxide leakage before you turn it on, both for your pets’ health and your own. Carbon monoxide is odorless and invisible, but it can cause problems ranging from headaches and fatigue to trouble breathing. Pets generally spend more time in the home than owners, particularly in the winter, so they are more vulnerable to carbon monoxide poisoning than the rest of the family.
Pets that go outside 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 her feet with a washcloth when she comes inside. If your canine friend will tolerate it, there are special booties that can help protect their paws from the winter elements and any chemicals or salts on the ground. This will also keep her from licking the salt off her feet, which could cause an inflammation of her digestive tract.
Keep an eye on your pet’s water. Sometimes owners don’t realize that a water bowl has frozen and their pet can’t get anything to drink. Animals that don’t have access to clean, unfrozen water are more likely to drink out of puddles or gutters, which can be polluted with oil, antifreeze, household cleaners, and other chemicals.
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 to someplace warm.
You can also keep an eye out for two serious conditions caused by cold weather. The first and less common of the two is frostbite. Frostbite happens when an animal’s (or a person’s) body gets cold and pulls all the blood from the extremities to the center of the body to stay warm. The animal’s ears, paws, or tail can get cold enough that ice crystals can form in the tissue and damage it. The tricky thing about frostbite is that it’s not immediately obvious. The tissue doesn’t show signs of the damage to it for several days.
If you suspect your pet may have frostbite, bring her into a warm environment right away. It’s important that you don’t rub the frostbitten tissue, however--the ice crystals can do a lot of damage to the tissue. Once your pet is warm, wrap her up in some blankets and take her to the veterinarian. Your veterinarian can assess the damage and treat your pet for pain or infection if necessary.
Hypothermia, or a body temperature that is below normal, is a condition that occurs when an animal is not able to keep her body temperature from falling below normal. It happens when animals spend too much time in cold temperatures, or when animals with poor health or circulation are exposed to cold. In mild cases, animals will shiver and show signs of depression, lethargy, and weakness. As the condition progresses, an animal’s muscles will stiffen, her heart and breathing rates will slow down, and she will stop responding to stimuli.
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.