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Pets need extra care in winter weather

Pets need extra care in winter weather

January 13th, 2011 in News

With windchills in the negative digits this week, staying indoors is at the top of many people's lists to stay warm, but some may forget about key members of the family - pets.

"The best thing to do is bring animals indoors," said Sandy Corbet, president of the Callaway County Humane Society. "Even taking them into the garage can help. It's generally 20 degrees warmer in the garage than outside."

If an animal must be kept outdoors, Corbet stressed not using blankets to help keep them warm.

"Have them in a good, sturdy dog house that has hay or straw. Don't use blankets," she said. "Blankets hold moisture, so the blanket will freeze and be colder for the animal. A hay or straw bed in the doghouse is better. If you can place the doghouse out of the wind, that helps, too."

Corbet said wind is the real problem with cold temperatures.

"The wind is what is really dangerous," she said. "It's not so much the temperatures, because animals can lay in the sun and get heat. But it's the windchill, so make sure they have some type of shelter."

Short-haired animals are especially at risk in winter.

"Animals can literally freeze to death," she said. "Even if they have a heavier coat or are a winter dog, this is just too cold, but normal house dogs don't develop an undercoat to stay outside with these temperatures."

With freshly fallen snow on the ground, many may think it's enough water for animals. Untrue, according to website searches.

Yukonquest.com notes that for an animal to get enough water from snow, it would take 20 times more snow than the normal amount of water given to an animal. For example, racing dogs need six quarts of water per day and would have to eat 120 quarts of melted snow to get that amount, because snow is mostly air.

Animals also burn more calories in colder temperatures, because they shiver to stay warm. Eating snow burns even more calories, because the animal has to raise the temperature of the water, according to yukonquest.com.

"Make sure they have water that isn't frozen," Corbet said. "There are heated electric dog dishes that will keep the water from freezing."

Even better, for animals that need more calories, yukonquest.com recommends hot soups and fat for the animals.

A few additional tips from the Missouri Humane Society to follow for keeping animals safe in winter:

•Beware of antifreeze and rock salt: Antifreeze often collects on driveways and roadways. Although it smells and tastes sweet to your pet, it is lethally poisonous. If you suspect your pet has ingested antifreeze, contact your veterinarian immediately! Deicing products like rock salt can irritate footpads. Be sure to rinse and dry your pet's feet after being outside. Pet stores often carry pet-safe ice melts that do the job and won't harm your pets.

•Dry off wet pets: A wet pet is a cold pet. Towel or blow-dry your pet if he gets wet from rain or snow. Also, it is important to clean and dry paws to prevent tiny cuts and cracked pads.

•Carefully keep pets warm inside: Keep your pets warm, dry and away from drafts while inside. Space heaters and other supplemental heat sources can burn your pet. Keep portable heaters out of reach and make sure all fireplaces have adequate screening. And, of course, never leave your pet alone with an unattended fire.

•Groom regularly: Your pet needs a well-groomed coat to keep him properly insulated. Short- or coarse-haired dogs might get extra cold so consider a sweater or a coat. Long-haired dogs should have their paw hair trimmed for ease in cleaning and snow removal.