Winter care for pets

By Dr. Theenda Greer

Winter can bring about temperatures that can be dangerous not only for us, but for our pets as well.  Extra care and precautions can help proven potential problems that may arise during the winter season. 

The normal body temperature for dogs and cats range for 100 F to 102.5 F.  When the environmental temperature drops below freezing, and animals are left outside for an extended amount of time, hypothermia and frostbite can set in quickly.

Depending on the degree and length of exposure, signs for hypothermia includes shivering, lethargy, muscle stiffness, shallow respiration, loss of consciousness and death.  The ears and feet of animals are at the greatest risk of getting frost bit.  These areas will be very cold and swollen and sometimes very painful for the animal.  Snow, ice, and melting salt can cause problems for the feet of the pet.  Ice can cut their feet and salt can cause thermal burns to their pads.

During very cold weather, allow indoor pets outside long enough for exercise and to "go" only.  Maintain their temperature with sweaters and coats and protect their feet with doggie booties.  Outdoor pets should have a warm, dry place to get out of the elements such as indoors or a heated garage.  Water bowls should be checked often making sure that it does not freeze.  Heated water bowls are also available at most pet stores.  Remove snow and ice from your pet's coat and feet to prevent frostbite.  If cats run free in the neighborhood, make sure to tap on the hood of your car before starting it to prevent fan belt injuries.  Cats often climb under the hoods of cars to get warm.