|Safeguard pets from cold weather risks|
Automobile hazards, sudden temperature drops and dietary concerns are just a few of the dangers pets face even during the South’s relatively mild winters.
Antifreeze, which is vital to cars during cold weather, presents pets with both a hazard and a temptation. Antifreeze is extremely dangerous for pets, even in small amounts. There are environmentally friendly types of antifreeze that are a little less hazardous, but all antifreeze is toxic to pets. Be sure not to leave any of this toxic substance out where pets can get to it, and clean up any spills or drips immediately. The toxic liquid supposedly has a sweet taste that tempts animals.
Automobiles pose another risk to cats and small wildlife. Warm engines and chilled animals can be a deadly combination.
Cats will crawl into the engine because it is warm. If you have cats outside, knock on the hood or honk the horn before starting the ignition to scare them out before it is too late. Starting the engine with an animal lodged inside can have disastrous results.
When temperatures fall, an outdoor pet’s needs rise. According to the Humane Society of the United States, wind chill can threaten a pet’s life, no matter what the temperature.
Give cats a warm place to sleep inside your home, garage or an outdoor shed. Provide a sheltered area high off the ground for warmth, security and safety. A box with a soft blanket inside makes a cozy bed.
Protect dogs with a dry, draft-free doghouse. The Society recommends turning the house away from chilling winds, and covering the doorway with waterproof burlap or heavy plastic. The doghouse floor should be a few inches off of the ground and covered with bedding. A house with bedding is best, but if you have a dog that destroys rugs or blankets, try hay as a bedding. Choose a doghouse that is large enough to allow the dog to sit and lie down comfortably but small enough to hold in the animal’s body heat.
Pregnant pets, as well as puppies and kittens, need special consideration. If newborns are instantly chilled, they are not likely to survive.
Burns are another common winter pet hazard. Never leave pets alone with electric, kerosene or propane space heaters. An accidental bump can result in terrible burns or a fire. Don’t let pets spend too much time in front of the fireplace or near heating ducts. Even heating pads set on low can burn an animal.
A balanced diet can tip the scales in a pet’s favor when the temperature drops. Underweight or pregnant pets can have special diet needs. Calorie demands increase for body temperature maintenance. Try feeding pets a little more when it is extremely cold. To prevent diet distress, remember that pets are not disposals for holiday meal leftovers. If your pet eats a lot of bones, there is the possibility for lacerations or punctures in the intestinal tract, and many other digestive problems. Sometimes turkeys have a metal ring or strings to hold the legs, and if a pet eats these, partial or complete gastrointestinal obstruction could occur. Fat left on the carcass will also cause stomach upset. The best place for the turkey carcass is the trash.
A constant supply of fresh water is another important aspect of a pet’s diet. Be sure to use non-metal water bowls to prevent wet tongues from sticking on frosty days. Make sure the chilly temperatures have not turned the pet’s water supply into a solid block of ice.
Although the seasons change, some pet health safeguards should stay the same year-round. In many places, mosquitoes are present even in the winter, so be sure to continue your pet’s heartworm medicine.
Whatever the weather, a little preparation can save time and lives during an emergency. A local veterinarian can provide emergency tips and an emergency number to call after hours.