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Cold weather pet safety tips, keep your furry friend out of the emergency veterinary hospital this winter! 

Brrrrrr! Winter is here and it is extremely cold. Our local weather watchers are warning the Treasure Valley that it is going to be even colder in the next few days, with our high temps in the single digits. With this extreme cold, it’s important for pet owners to protect their furry family members. As you are aware of the dangers from heat for animals, intense cold can also harm our pets’ health.

A few important tips:WestVet: Extreme Cold Safety Tips for Your Pet

Wellness exams. Cold temperatures may worsen some medical conditions, including arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, or hormonal imbalances. When pets are unable to regulate their body temperature easily, these health conditions may deteriorate. Have your pet examined by a general practice veterinary annually, and ask him or her about how your pet’s condition could be affected by changing temperatures.

Your pets’ limits. Your pets’ ability to tolerate the cold can vary based on his/her coat, body fat, activity level, and health. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) says that, “Long-haired or thick-coated dogs tend to be more cold-tolerant, but are still at risk in cold weather. Short-haired pets feel the cold faster because they have less protection, and short-legged pets may become cold faster because their bellies and bodies are more likely to come into contact with snow-covered ground.”

It’s not just the cold, ice can be treacherous. Arthritic or senior pets may be more prone to slipping and falling. 

Inside is best.  With these temperatures in Southwestern Idaho so dangerously low, it is best for pets to stay indoors. WestVet: Idaho's 24 Hour After Hour Animal Veterinary HospitalThere is a mistaken belief that cats and dogs are resistant to the cold because of their fur. It’s simply not true. Pets are susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia—even breeds (like Huskies) who have thick coats and more cold tolerance.

This advice also applies to cold cars. Our little friends can’t wait in the parking lot in sub zero temperatures, it’s best to leave them home when holiday shopping.

If you are unable to keep your dog indoors during cold weather, a warm shelter is critical as well as access to fresh (not frozen) water. Watch your pet for signs of problems including whining, shivering, showing anxiety, moving slowly—or not moving, appearing weak, and looking for warm places to burrow. These are signs of hypothermia, you need to get your pet inside quickly.  Frostbite damage may not show until a few days after the damage is done. Regardless, if you suspect your pet has hypothermia or frostbite, consult your veterinarian immediately.

Peek at the paws. During and after a walk, check your dog’s paw for cold weather injuries like cracked pads or bleeding. In addition, if you notice a sudden lameness during your walk, it may be due to ice build-up between your pet’s toes. Pet stores and retailers offer snow shoes or booties for dogs— you may want to consider using them. Certainly, if your dog has a short coat you can utilize a sweater or dog coat to help keep them warm.

Quick clean up.  Another important note from the AVMA, is to clean up your pet after you’ve outside in the winter fun.

“During walks, your dog’s feet, legs and belly may pick up deicers, antifreeze, or other chemicals that could be toxic. When you get back inside, wipe down (or wash) your pet’s feet, legs and belly to remove these chemicals and reduce the risk that your dog will be poisoned after (s)he licks them off of his/her feet or fur. “

Let’s ALL have a safe winter in Idaho—stay warm!

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