Monday, December 15, 2008

Keeping Pets Safe in Winter

Frigid air currently blankets the area where I live. My dogs need to go outside at times, therefore, I (and other pet owners) need to be mindful of keeping pets safe during the winter. Here are a few tips:

1. Don't keep dogs outside in freezing temperatures for long periods of time. If your dog has short fur, you may want to put a sweater on it to help keep it warm while it's outside in the cold. Wind-chill can threaten your pet's life, no matter what the thermometer says, so be sure to keep track of the wind-chill factor.

2. If your dog is an outdoor dog, MAKE SURE the dog has a dry, draft-free doghouse where it's protected from the cold. The doghouse needs to be large enough to allow the dog to sit and lie down comfortably, but also small enough to hold its body heat. The floor of the house should be raised a few inches off the ground and covered with cedar shavings or straw, and the house should be turned to face away from the wind. Additionally, the doorway should be covered with a flap of heavy, waterproof fabric or heavy plastic to help keep the inside warmer and drier.

3. Pets that spend a lot of time outdoors need more food in the winter -- keeping warm depletes energy. Therefore, make sure your outdoor pet has plenty of food. Also, routinely check your pet's water dish to make certain the water is fresh and not frozen, and use plastic food and water bowls rather than metal -- an animal's tongue can stick and freeze to the metal.

4. De-icing chemicals are hazardous to pets. The salt and other chemicals used to melt snow and ice can irritate pads of a pet's feet, therefore, wipe your pet's feet with a damp towel every time it's been outside, especially after walking on the sidewalks in the neighborhood.

5. Along those lines, remember that anti-freeze is a deadly poison. It has a sweet taste that attracts animals and children. When using anti-freeze, wipe up spills and store the anti-freeze out of the reach of pets and children. Better yet, use anti-freeze made with propylene glycol - it's much less toxic if swallowed in small amounts.

6. Lastly, remember that warm car engines are attractive to cats wandering outdoors -- they may crawl up under the car's hood looking for warmth. To avoid injuring these little creatures, bang on your car's hood to scare them away before starting your engine.

Keep yourself and your pets safe this winter!

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