Sherry Davis

Friday, Dec 13 2013 12:00 PM

SHERRY DAVIS: Keep pets safe from the cold with these tips

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    By Felix Adamo/ The Californian

    Columnist Sherry Davis.

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By Sherry Davis

With overnight temperatures dropping into the 20s and daytime highs only reaching the 50s, it's important to be aware of your pet's tolerance for cold and adjust for it.

Here are some cold weather reminders to help keep your pets safe and healthy:

Very young and very old pets are more susceptible to problems from temperature extremes because they have a harder time regulating their body temperature.

Pets with diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease or hormone imbalances will be more sensitive to weather extremes.

Although exercise is important for arthritic and elderly pets, they can have stiff joints and are more prone to slipping and falling, so you may want to shorten their walks.

Short-haired pets feel the cold faster because they have less protection, as do short-legged pets that are closer to the ground. Short-haired and short-legged pets should be provided a jacket or sweater to protect them from becoming chilled during outings.

Damp sweaters or coats can make a pet colder, so rotate garments or dry them completely if they become wet.

Long-haired or thick-coated dogs may be more tolerant of the cold, but they are still at risk if they become wet and/or chilled from laying on cold, hard ground or cement.

During walks your dog may come in contact with de-icers, antifreeze or other chemicals that can be toxic. To reduce the risk of your dog being poisoned from its ingestion, wipe or wash its feet, legs and belly after walks.

Check your dog's paws frequently for cuts or cracks in their pads that can become aggravated by cold weather and cause lameness.

Never leave your pet unattended in a vehicle. People often think of this only as a hot weather concern, but a car can cool rapidly in cold weather, turning it into a refrigerator and badly chilling your pet.

Bang on the hood and honk the horn before starting the engine of your car because outside and feral cats will climb up inside engines to keep warm.

Clean up antifreeze spills under your car to prevent accidental poisoning.

Make sure your house is pet-proofed. Space heaters can be knocked over and start a fire, so they should be used with caution around pets. In older homes, watch out for pets who lay too close to or on floor furnace grills, which can cause burns.

Never leave pets unattended around burning candles, which can be knocked over by enthusiastic tail waggers or playful kittens.

The American Veterinary Medical Association does not recommend keeping any pet outside for long periods in extreme weather, but says that if you are unable to keep your pet indoors during cold weather that you provide it with a warm, dry shelter that is raised off the ground to minimize heat loss and with the door protected from the wind. You should provide your pet with regularly changed dry bedding and make sure it has unlimited access to fresh water.

Dogs that spend long periods of time outdoors may require additional food during cold weather to generate enough body heat and energy to keep them warm.

Watch pets for signs of hypothermia: Shivering, whining, anxiousness and weakness are signals to get your pet inside quickly and call the vet.

Be prepared for an emergency. Depending on the area where you live in, severe winter weather can cause power outages or restrict your ability to travel. Your disaster/emergency kit should include enough food, water and medicine for your pet to last a minimum of five days.

Sherry Davis is a dog trainer/ owner of CSI 4 K9s. Email her at csi4k9s@yahoo.com. These are her opinions, not necessarily The Californian's.

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