Sunday, December 27, 2009

Caring For Pets in Cold Weather

As we go about our wintry business, shoveling snow, going
for a brisk walk on the beach or just racing from car to
home, we have prepared ourselves for the adversity and
stresses of cold weather. However, it is important to
remember that certain categories of pets have special needs
during this time of year, and all animals can suffer from
hypothermia and frostbite in the worst of conditions.
  Breeds like the Newfoundland, Husky and Saint Bernardlove the snow. When in good health, only extremes in climate change will affect them. Make sure your companion pet does not have a special need in relationship to the cold. The geriatricpatient has far less tolerance and it is always a good idea to have a recent medical examination to evaluate what stresses should be avoided. Conditions like heart disease,kidney failure,diabetes and hormonal imbalances can compromise your pets ability to withstand the stress of cold weather.
When you walk your animal companion, when it gets too
cold for you, consider the conditions the same for her.
Small pets will find themselves immersed in snow and will
require special attention. Those pets with short coats will
require coats in very cold weather. Locally, many pet stores
like Pet Smart and Petco carry coats, as well as the pet
departments in discount stores like Walmart and Target.
The Dog Spa has some pretty snazzy choices too. However,clothing alone is not always a safe alternative in extreme
cold. Dogs loose most of their body heat through their paws,
ears and respiratory tract.
Beware of certain dangers that exist because of special
circumstances created by the cold. The cat that snuggles up
against a warm car engine is at risk as it will not be seen by
the driver starting a car, and a frozen pond or lake creates a
hazard to the dog running off-leash during a thaw. Once an
animal falls thru the ice, it is very difficult to get out, so pay
special attention when near frozen bodies of water and keep
pets on a leash.
There are unusual threats that exist inside the home during
cold spells. The space heater and the fire place can create a
hazard to the dog or cat that snuggles up to them, failing to
realize that a paw or tail could get burned. The potential of
knocking over a space heater is something that pet owners
should be aware of.
When outdoors, there are certain symptoms which may
indicate that frigid conditions are causing a problem. If he
or she whines, shivers or stops moving, your dog may be
feeling the effects of hypothermia (below normal body
temperature). Never leave a dog unattended outside when
the mercury drops. It is obvious that sources of water could
be unavailable and worse, serious conditions such as
hypothermia and frostbite can occur.
Hypothermia occurs when a pet’s body can not regulate it’s
temperature due to extreme cold and drops below normal.
Depression, shivering and an unwillingness to walk will be
seen. As her temperature falls below normal she will
breathe more slowly, her heart rate will slow and she will
respond to stimuli slowly. Pets that show these symptoms
should immediately be taken into a warm environment and
wrapped in a blanket with a hot water bottle or with an
electric blanket.
A less common condition is called frostbite. It occurs in
pets and people when the body is exposed to extreme cold.
In an attempt to protect itself, the circulatory system shunts
blood from the extremities into the core of the body for
warmth. Deprived of the movement of blood, ice crystals
form in the paws, ears and tail. These crystals damage the
tissue. If you suspect frostbite, immediately bring your pet
into the warmth and soak the affected parts in warm water
for 20 minutes. Do not rub the suspected areas as this will
cause tissue damage.
Once you have done the above, take your pet to your
veterinarian. She or he will administer pain medications
and possibly antibiotics.
The winter is a great time to share outdoor activities with
your pets. For many of us, it serves as an incentive to leave
the warmth and comfort of our homes and discover the joy
of walking a solitary beach or feeling the pleasure of a brisk
walk in the woods. With a little care and forethought, the
risks of the cold can be prevented.

1 comment:

  1. Just a warning on using an electric blanket-my dog was experiencing severe back pain so we laid out an electric blanket for him-it ended up burning his back pretty severely. We think he must have put all his weight on it since the heat felt good on his back, but the burn is pretty bad and our vet had to shave him. He is now on antibiotics to fend of any infection. There were no holes in the blanket-it was in excellent condition.