Pets need special care in bitter cold

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February 3, 2011 - 12:00 AM

Protecting pets is critical in cold winter weather said Cathy Monfort and veterinarian Lee Ann Flowers, both of Red Barn Veterinary Service on 1300 Street north of Iola.
“Truly, in this kind of weather, there is no way to maintain a pet safely outside,” Monfort stressed.
The best thing one can do, she said, is “Take them in.”
Even yard dogs need shelter, Flowers noted.
“I have five outdoor dogs,” she said. At night, they go into “an enclosed (and heated) building.”
A dog house alone cannot adequately block wind chill, Flowers said.
“Even a dog with a heavy coat is not acclimated to the severe temperatures we are going to have,” Monfort said.
Though covered in fur, dogs can get frostbite, Flowers said.
“It’s hard to tell.” The most visible sign is that the inside of the ears become reddened. Tails and ears are most often affected. If frostbitten, “the skin will slough off,” Flowers said.
The best prevention is protection from wind and cold.
Even if a dog is not house trained, Monfort said, “you need to get it into a heated environment” at night. “Put down newspapers,” if need be, but don’t leave the animal kenneled outdoors.

ANOTHER worry for winter pets is dehydration.
Dogs “will not drink cold or frozen water,” Monfort said. “The water temperature has to be at least 50 degrees in this weather.”
Without water, “A dehydrated animal cannot maintain its body temperature,” she said.
In addition, “it’s really hard for an animal to eat enough calories in this weather.”
“My dogs’ appetite doubles in the winter,” Flowers observed.
For proper care of outdoor dogs, “You need to have them on a good quality food” and increase the quantity, she said. “I just leave food out all the time in winter,” she added.
Indoor pets, on the other hand, do not need an increased calorie load and can be fed on their regular schedule.
The lack of extra fat or a thickened coat makes indoor pets more susceptible to being chilled, however, Flowers said.
“Small dogs and dogs with not a lot of hair should not be left outside at all,” Flowers said.
“Stand at the door and watch and let them back in right away,” Monfort suggested when a pet goes outside to do its business.
If walked in cold weather, wipe off a dog’s feet once back home to remove salts that can cause intestinal upset.
“There’s a lot of hidden dangers we don’t think about in weather like this,” Monfort said.
“Salt itself is especially drying and will crack (a dog’s) feet,” she said. Plus, Flowers added, “antifreeze is lethal.”
Pets can get  it on their feet, then once inside lick it off, ingesting the poison.
“I recommend keeping baby wipes by the door and wiping off their feet as soon as they come in” Flowers said.
Even tiny dogs that rarely go outdoors need special care in winter, Flowers said.
“Little dogs — like Chihuahuas — need a sweater,” she said. “It’s drafty down there on the floor.”
Dogs, if chilled, will shiver.
“If a dog is shivering, he is cold. If he is shivering, put a coat on him,” she added.
Consider it this way. A day outside for a pet dog “would be like you standing outside in your heavy coat all day,” Monfort said.
If it’s too cold for you — it’s too cold for them.

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