Protect pets from winter health hazards

Protect pets from winter health hazards

By Callie Harris, Communications and Media Relations Manager

 

 

 

ABILENE, Texas – Despite their “fur” coats, domesticated animals like cats and dogs depend on humans for protection from the elements. With below freezing temperatures creeping into the forecast, the City of Abilene’s Animal Services Division is offering the following suggestions to help keep all pets safe through the cold winter months: Don’t leave pets outdoors when the temperature drops below freezing. Dogs need outdoor exercise but take care not to keep them out for lengthy periods during very cold weather. Short-coated dogs may feel more comfortable wearing a sweater during walks. Dogs and cats are safer indoors in all sorts of weather. {{more}} Signs of hypothermia include: weak pulse, dilated pupils, decreased heart rate, extreme shivering, pale or blue mucous membranes, body temperature below 95 degrees, stupor and unconsciousness. Consequences of extreme hypothermia may include neurological problems including coma, heart problems and kidney failure. Check with your veterinarian for more information. Wind chill can threaten a pet’s life, no matter what the temperature. Outdoor dogs must be protected by a dry, draft-free doghouse that is large enough to allow the dog to sit and lie down comfortably but small enough to hold in his/her body heat. The floor should be raised a few inches off the ground and covered with loose, insulating material such as straw or shredded newspaper. Material should be changed regularly to ensure it stays dry. The house should be turned to face away from the wind and the doorway should be covered with a flap of heavy waterproof fabric or heavy plastic. Pets spending a lot of time outdoors need more food in the winter. Keeping warm depletes energy. Routinely check your pet’s water dish to make certain the water is fresh and not frozen. Use plastic food and water bowls rather than metal; when the temperature is low, your pet’s tongue can stick and freeze to metal. Warm car engines are dangerous for cats and small wildlife. Parked cars attract small animals which may crawl up under the hood looking for warmth. To avoid injuring any hidden animals, bang on your car’s hood to scare them away before starting your engine.  De-icing chemicals are hazardous. The salt and other chemicals used to melt snow and ice can irritate the pads of your pet’s feet. Wipe the feet with a damp towel every time after coming in from outdoors – even if you don’t see salt on walkways.With the arrival of the winter months, there are additional health hazards which are of concern for animals. A few of these health risks could be brought into the home inadvertently thereby increasing your pets’ possibility to exposure. The following are some important tips to help you and your pet enjoy the winter season:  Antifreeze – This mixture contains ethylene glycol, a product that can cause lethal kidney failure if ingested. Antifreeze has a sweet taste that attracts animals and can be toxic in small doses. An antidote is available but early recognition of ingestion and immediate treatment by a veterinarian is imperative for the survival of your pet. Better yet, use antifreeze-coolant made with propylene glycol; if swallowed in small amounts, it will not hurt pets, wildlife or people.  Baking Chocolate – This form of chocolate contains a higher concentration of the stimulant theobromine than regular chocolate. Because dogs and cats lack the enzyme needed to break down this ingredient, just one ounce of baking chocolate can be fatal to a small dog or cat. Mistletoe – The berry of this plant is the most toxic component, especially if chewed instead of swallowed whole. If ingested in sufficient quantities, it can cause gastrointestinal and neurological symptoms.  Poinsettia – Whether or not this plant is toxic has been debated for years. The most recent findings are that it contains no toxic chemical. However, as with any item that your pet is not accustomed to eating, it can cause diarrhea and vomiting. Animals tend to be attracted to poinsettias so it is a good practice to keep this plant out of your pets’ reach.  Christmas cactus – This plant is nontoxic but can cause your pet to have diarrhea and vomiting if consumed.  Glow Jewelry – The chemical contained in glow-in-the-dark jewelry may have the potential to cause death as a result of respiratory distress. Animals that have bitten into the jewelry may exhibit heavy salivation, hyperactivity and aggressive behavior.  Cold Weather – Animals in Texas are not acclimated to cold weather and should be provided with adequate protection and shelter from the direct effect of wind, rain or snow.