Pets need extra attention to cope with winter

December 02, 2003|GARY MOYERS

They may have a coat of fur, but pets still need protection against winter weather.

"The long-haired breeds of dogs and cats do handle cold weather better than short-hairs, but that's a result of their origins," said Dr. Mitch Spaulding of Harrodsburg Animal Hospital. "But even the long-haired pets can develop problems if they're not watched."

Spaulding recommends all pets have a checkup once a year, regardless of the temperature.

"Pets generally handle cold weather pretty well, but some precautions should be taken," said Spaulding. "Of course, all pets should have a yearly checkup, but if your pet has some health problems, they might need special care during cold weather."

Spaulding said two of the biggest problems for animals during the winter are frostbite and lack of water.

"The water supply is one of the most important items during the winter," he said.

"Water freezes, and if a pet doesn't have ready access to unfrozen water, they look for an alternative. Antifreeze doesn't freeze, of course, and it has a very sweet taste, but it's also very deadly to pets.


"The other problem is frostbite, and that usually happens when a pet goes outside in snow or frozen precipitation, then comes back in without having their pads cleaned off. Pet owners should wipe their pets' feet when they come back in, as well as the underside of their belly."

Just like their human counterparts, Spaulding said young and old pets generally have less tolerance for the cold.

"Young pets, particularly puppies, don't yet possess the ability to regulate their body temperature," he said. "And older ones who may already have some health problems have the same problem. You will sometimes see older animals develop a reluctance to go outside during the cold when for years they've had no problems. Sometimes the owner has to make arrangements for animals inside."

Another common problem, particularly when animals live in barns or garages during cold weather, is the fact that engine warmth is used by pets to stay comfortable.

"Cats especially like to crawl in wheel wells and engine compartments of vehicles," said Spaulding. "Blow your horn before you start your car, or bang on the hood to get them out."

A few precautions can keep your pet healthy and ready to play when spring finally arrives.

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