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Winter Pet Care Tips – 12/10/2013

Updated 11/23/14

Dr. Deborah Fegan and Susan Reid

First snowfall of the fall/winter season is upon us and it’s not even Thanksgiving yet! Typical Cleveland weather. Let’s hope that this winter isn’t as bad as last year. The temperature is dropping, but your concerns for your pet’s welfare during the winter season may be rising. It is essential that your pet retain heat during the chilling weather.

Cold weather can be hard on your pet. Sometimes owners forget that their pets are just as accustomed to the warm 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. Conditions like diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, and hormonal imbalances can compromise a pet’s ability to regulate their 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 as well.

If your pet is an outside pet, it is important to create a comfortable, warm shelter with warm bedding of straw, for example. Review your pet’s dog house and make sure there is a “doggy door” covering the entrance protecting the pet from the harsh winds. Also, you may need to turn the entrance away from the wind.

An unheated garaged cannot retain heat for your pet to remain warm and secure. Some sort of pet house with warm bedding is necessary to keep the pet comfortable in the garage.

Indoor pets face cold weather issues as well. When they go outside, even for short periods of time, they can pick up rock salt, ice, and chemical ice melts in their foot pads, which can become painful with exposure. To keep your pet’s pads from getting chapped and raw, wipe the pet’s feet with a warm towel to remove the corrosive salt. This will also keep your pet from licking the salt off their feet, which could affect the digestive tract.

Cold windy weather can affect your arthritic senior pets, leaving their joints extremely stiff and tender and their movements may become more awkward than usual. Remember to increase your pet’s comfort with thicker, warmer bedding. Did you know that they even make heated pet beds now? Consider getting one especially for your older cat.

Stay close to your elderly pet when they are climbing stairs or jumping onto furniture. Watch stiff and arthritic pets if you walk them outside; a bad slip on the ice could cause a significant injury. Your veterinarian may be able recommend pain medications that can help your pet.

Contact our winter hotline at (440) 234-5831 to address any specific concerns. A winter check-up with our veterinarians can make sure they don’t have any medical problems that will make them more vulnerable to the cold.

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