Archive for Thursday, November 8, 2001

Don’t leave pets out in the cold this winter

November 8, 2001

Laughing at dogs dressed up in winter attire may be easy, but for some breeds a winter wardrobe is necessary.

Just months ago, veterinarian Ron Lee spoke about protecting house pets from the Kansas summer when temperatures reached over 100 degrees.

Although severely cold temperatures are probably still a few months away, when the mercury drops in the 20s, Lee said pet owners need to start thinking about pets' health.

The cold is worse on pets used to the indoors. Especially hard-hit are thick-skinned dogs and those dogs bred for warmer climates, such as greyhounds and whippets.

"He's not going to be able to tough it out like a Siberian husky," Lee said. "People laugh at those little sweaters and stuff, but they actually do help retain body heat."

Dogs living outside that may be accustomed to varying temperatures need consideration, too, as their environment changes. Owners need to make sure the pets water supply doesn't freeze up, and doghouses should be well-insulated with clean straw or blankets. You can't expect a dog to use the same bedding all year, Lee said.

With doghouses, size matters.

"A great, big doghouse is harder for a dog to keep warm in," Lee said.

In winter, dogs' caloric needs increase by about 10 percent just to maintain their body temperature. Lee said owners may want to pad their pets meals accordingly.

Indoor pets face problems with the colder weather, too.

"A lot of times we see dogs that get a bronchial infection," Lee said. "They go outside and spend a little time in that cold air, and that can cause an infection in their lungs."

Dogs coats aren't immune to dry air from heaters, either. Using a humidifier or supplementing the dog's diet with fatty acids can keep their coat and skin healthy.

While cats are better able to escape the cold by finding a warm spot out of the wind, they can also find themselves in trouble. When cat owners come home from work the animals find the car engine nice and warm, but if owners leave the house again they may not think about the cat's whereabouts.

Automobiles pose a different type of threat to pets, too.

"If your car runs hot and you lose antifreeze, it's really attractive to a pet to lick that stuff up," Lee said.

All times of the year Eudora Animal Hospital needs donations of blankets and towels to pad cages for the patients, which can be dropped off any time during regular business hours.

"We would appreciate anything they just don't have a human use for," Lee said.

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