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Keeping Pets Healthy During the Winter Months

Cooler weather is finally here and that means winter is just around the corner. This can mean seasonal challenges for our pets.

Cold weather may worsen some medical conditions such as arthritis. Just like people, pets’ cold tolerance can vary from one pet to the next based on their size, coat, body fat stores, activity level and overall health status. Be aware of your pet’s cold tolerance and adjust accordingly. Arthritic or elderly pets may have more difficulty in colder weather and should be monitored more closely. Long-haired or thick coated dogs tend to be more tolerant of the colder weather but can still be at risk in extreme cold. Small or short haired pets can feel the cold faster because they have less body mass and less protection from the lower temperatures. Pets with diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease or other chronic conditions (such as Cushing’s Disease) may have a harder time regulating their body temperature and can be more susceptible to problems from temperature extremes. The same goes for very young and very old pets. If you need help determining your pet’s temperature limits, call us and schedule an appointment to discuss it with one of our doctors.

If your pet is an outdoor pet, it is important to provide adequate protection from the elements. He must have a shelter that is large enough so that he can curl up inside to maintain body heat. And be sure there is always a source of fresh, unfrozen water available.

One final outdoor caution: Remember to thump on the hood of your car or honk the horn on cold mornings. A cat may be nestled against the engine for warmth and thumping or honking will get the animal to escape to safety.

Every year we get questions about sweaters for pets: Are they helpful or just silly? Some animals can really use an extra layer of insulation from a well-fitted sweater: older pets and dogs that are tiny (such as Chihuahuas), or are shorthaired and naturally lean (such as Greyhounds or Whippets).

There are several other hazards that pets can be exposed to during the holiday season. Lilies, Poinsettias, Mistletoe, and Holly are common Christmas time decorations that can be a problem if a pet should ingest. Christmas tree water, electric cords, tinsel, glass ornaments, and liquid potpourri are all items we have seen pets have problems with due to chewing or ingestion.

Cold-weather and holiday pet care is a matter of compassion and common sense. Use both and keep your pets safe this winter.

Alex "Steve" Steverson, DVM

December 5, 2015