WINTERIZING YOUR PET
By Sheila Tuler, D.V.M.
Just like winterizing your house, wardrobe, and car, the onset of the cold weather means taking a little care to ensure that your petís winter is trouble-free. In most areas of New Mexico the weather does not get cold enough to cause a lot of problems, but there are a few tips that will keep everyone safe and warm.
Food: Pets spending time outdoors will need extra calories to help stay warm. It is not unusual for outdoor pets to put on a few pounds in cold weather. Make sure they have plenty of good food.
Water: As always, fresh water is important. In the winter, it is important that water does not freeze. Special bowls are available to keep water from freezing, or filling one bowl with hot water (while filling another as usual) will suffice in most weather.
Antifreeze: Most antifreeze is extremely toxic to animals. Just a few drops can kill a c at, and a small puddle can kill a dog. In addition, antifreeze is tasty and attractive to pets. Remember to watch for spills, be careful with disposal of antifreeze, and keep your car maintained. One company, Sierra, makes a non-toxic product; I would love to see this supported.
Shelter: Make sure there is some shelter available to your pet that is protected from wind and precipitation, and if you have more than one pet, make sure they can share. Shelter alone may not be sufficient for short-haired breeds; consider a sweater or coat. One can be made inexpensively by trimming an old sweatshirt or turtleneck sweater.
Car Engines: Engines make safe, cozy resting places for cats. Make a habit of pounding on the hood of your car before starting it on cold mornings. You may save a catís life.
Paws: Keep the hair trimmed from between your dogís toes, and keep your petís paws free of ice and salt as much as possible.
Poisons: Watch out for special holiday dangers. Mistletoe berries can be very toxic. Induce vomiting and call your veterinarian if ingested. Holly leaves and berries can also be poisonous. Poinsettias have a reputation of being very toxic, but in reality only cause an upset stomach. Artificial snow and stencil sprays used for holiday decorations can contain methylene chloride, which can cause signs like carbon monoxide poisoning. Chocolate can cause restlessness, increased heart rate, vomiting and diarrhea. In high enough quantifies, it can be lethal. This is especially true with baking chocolate and small dogs, so keep your holiday and Valentine candy out of reach.
Most of this information is common sense. Just keep dangerous items out of your petís reach, and remember that they are now domesticated animals, no longer adapted to life in the wild. Take care of them, and have a safe winter.
Dr. Sheila Tuler is a veterinarian who practices in Santa Fe.
Note: This article first appeared in the Fall/Winter 1998 issue.
For more on household hazards, see PET POISONS, Part One and Two
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