Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Winter Pet Care Points

It's December in New Orleans, at least that is what the calendar is telling us. With temperatures creeping into the eighties though, and ridiculously high humidity, some folks may be finding it hard to believe that it is actually winter and not the second coming of August. Of course we all know that cooler air always returns soon enough, and when it does our furry, four-legged friends will need some extra care, just like they do in the height of hot summer months.

Here in the deep south there are a number of safety concerns for busy pet parents in late fall and early winter, ranging from the potential danger posed by popular holiday plants such as poinsettias, to the inescapable chill that comes with the draftiness of old houses. Of course winter pet care and safety will vary somewhat according to the size and breed of your pet, but some of the basics are the same, chief among them being temperature concerns. In general, if it's too cold out for you it's probably too cold for your pet as well which means important precautions are in order.

Does that mean your dog or cat will need a sweater this winter? You might be surprised to learn that many smaller breed dogs and those with shorter hair can actually benefit from wearing sweaters and vests in cold weather. Fortunately in New Orleans snow is a rare occasion, but just like in summer, you also want to be mindful of paws. Pups and kitties coming in contact with frosty pavement can experience a range of issues including chapped paws and itchy skin. Also, frostbite can occur when paws have been submerged in cold water.

We can't say enough about not leaving pets in the car in the heat of summer, but did you know a car can act as a refrigerator in winter? Animals can't keep warm in cold cars despite their coats, and by holding in the cold air your vehicle can actually cause your pet to freeze to death.

When it's cold outside we naturally crank up the heat inside, but this means that drier air conditions indoors can potentially contribute to itchy, flaky pet skin and even too-dry paws (not to mention dry, cracked sinuses for pet parents). Consider keeping a humidifier on hand and check paws regularly to be sure they don't need attention.

Hydration is just as important in the winter as it is in the summer, so always be sure pets have plenty of water to drink. If leaving a water bowl outside for a pet in cold weather, be sure to use a plastic one and not a metal one.

Space heaters and heat lamps are a no-no! Pets can suffer burns if their bodies or tails get too close to flames or heat elements, and if a pet knocks a heater over your home could catch fire. While snow storms and hurricanes are unlikely in New Orleans in the winter, power outages are a real possibility so be sure to plan ahead.

In review:

Don't leave pets outside in freezing temperatures.
Don't leave pets in a cold car.
Don't leave space heaters on for pets.

Do make sure pets have adequate warm shelter when spending time outside.
Do provide beds with sides for both dogs and cats indoors.
Do protect your pet's paws and check them regularly.

For more tips, be sure to see our Pinterest board Winter Pet Safety and Care!

More info:

Frostbite in dogs

8 Tips For Caring For Your Pet This Winter

SPCA Cold Weather Safety Tips

How to Care For Outdoor Cats in Winter

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