The long, cold winters are hard on all of us, and that includes our pets. Dr. Mark Basol of the Vergennes Animal Hospital has some tips for helping your pets avoid frostbite and other winter woes.
1) Avoiding frostbite. Pets can easily get frostbite when they go outdoors in the cold, so there are some key areas you should pay attention to. "The biggest areas we have to look at are ears, which are really thin, the tip of the tail down near the end and the paws," Dr. Basol says.
2) Keep paws clump-free. "Make sure you pick up their feet and check between the pads to make sure they're not building up ice chunks or snow chunks in there, especially if they're walking in places where they're using deicing," Dr. Basol says. "We want to make sure that gets out of there, especially because we don't want the dog trying to lick it out and then ingesting it."
3) Feed outdoor pets a bit more in the winter because they need the extra calories to stay warm. "I would increase their food amount by 25 percent at most," Dr. Basol says. In short, if a dog regularly eats two cups of food a day, feed them 2.5 cups. "The other thing is making sure they have fresh water and that it's unfrozen."
4) Even indoor pets need some extra care. "Especially older pets who may have some arthritis, they definitely could benefit from some extra warmth," Dr. Basol says. "Also, if you feel your pet may be in more pain or discomfort because of the cold then using products that would be available at the vets office, like joint supplements or actual pain meds, can be helpful too."
5) Keep outdoor dog houses small. "We want to have a shelter that's insulated for them that should actually be not much bigger than they can turn around in," Dr. Basol says. "That actually keeps the heat closer to them than a bigger shelter."
6) Get a pet-approved heating pad. Dr. Basol says they're a good idea for both indoor and outdoor pets.
7) Get your animal a jacket. "They're especially important for dogs that have short hair like bulldogs or thin animals like greyhounds," Dr. Basol says.
8) If your dog likes to swim, keep them on a leash around ice or water. "We always have a few reports every year of people walking their dogs near the water or the river and the dogs try to go out and play on the ice or check out that open water, but the dogs fall in and all of a sudden it's a dangerous thing for both man and dogs," Dr. Basol says.
9) Make sure there isn't a cat napping under the hood of your car. Outdoor cats will seek out warm places to rest, and a just-stopped car can seem like the perfect place. So before you start your car, bang on the hood and honk the horn to make sure the cat gets out before you start the engine.
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