Cold-weather safety tips for dogs and cats.
By Terri Blazell
Daylight wanes, leaves disappear, and a chill hangs in the air. If you’re RVing in a colder climate, you definitely know that winter has arrived. But as you turn up the heat and bundle up in extra clothing, don’t forget that your dog or cat may need some extra care also. Having a fur coat doesn’t ensure that it is properly protected from inclement weather. But by taking some precautions for your furry traveling companion, you’ll ensure that it is more comfortable, and safer, throughout the winter months.
Some things to consider are your pet’s size and weight, as well as the thickness of its coat. Its age, breed, and health are also factors. Once the temperature dips below 30 degrees Fahrenheit, limit your pet’s outdoor exposure to 20 minutes or less. However, the thermometer reading shouldn’t be your only guide. The windchill factor and the amount of moisture in the air also need to be considered. Larger dogs with thicker coats can stay out longer, but if you have an older dog with health issues, then maybe it should not. Even the type of medication your pet may be taking can affect its ability to handle the cold. Be sure to check with your vet concerning any medications prescribed. RVer Sue Conant stays out with her black Labrador retriever, Kira, and uses the rule of thumb that when she is cold and wants to come back in, it’s time for her dog to come in also.
When a dog is outside, look for signs of shivering, foot-stamping (also known as paw-hopping), whining, or an obvious eagerness to get back inside. If you see any of these behaviors, your dog is cold and added exposure could lead to hypothermia and frostbite.
Dressing a pet in a warm, comfortable sweater or coat helps, but many parts of its body are still exposed. If you do bundle up your pet, stick your fingers in the leg holes and around the neck to ensure the coat fits comfortably and is not rubbing when the pet moves.
It’s very important to remove metal collars in cold weather. Speaking of collars, check the inside of your pet’s collar once a month. Many collars are sewn with heavy nylon thread. Should this threading come loose, your pet may feel like it is being stuck in the neck with a pin. If your pet is repeatedly scratching its neck, it may not be fleas; it could be a faulty collar.
Many items used in the winter can cause your pet to become ill, or even worse, be fatal. Automotive antifreeze is poisonous in small quantities and is made even more deadly because of its sweet taste, which dogs like. Chemicals and salt used for melting ice on walkways and roads can stick to your pet’s foot pads. These chemicals not only can burn the skin, but cause illness or death when licked off. Always wipe your pet’s paws with a damp cloth after they’ve been outside, to remove contaminants. Signs of possible poisoning include vomiting, stumbling, and the appearance of being drunk. If your pet shows any of these signs, get it to a vet immediately.
Trim the fur around the feet of long-haired dogs to prevent ice balls from forming on them. To a dog, having frozen ice stuck to its pads may make it feel as though it is walking on sharp rocks. Look for signs of limping or walking very slowly. If you still find your pet is prone to having ice balls form on its feet, apply a thin coat of cooking oil to its pads before taking it outside. If your dog will tolerate them, put booties on its paws.
If your dog stays outside, its doghouse floor should be a few inches off the ground, and the interior just big enough for the dog to stand up in and turn around. If the house is too big, it will not warm up from your dog’s body heat. Check the bedding every day. Ice and snow brought in on a dog’s feet can refreeze on its bedding.
Make sure your pet has fresh water daily and that its bowl hasn’t frozen over. Snow is not a substitute for water. Two cups of snow produces only three ounces of water and will severely lower your dog’s body temperature. If your dog spends a lot of time outside, increase its food ration as well. Dogs burn more calories in cold weather.
Cats should not be outside at all in winter. They are very susceptible to the cold and can develop hypothermia and frostbite. They also are very likely to seek out a warm, yet unsafe, place to curl up, such as inside the warm engine area of a vehicle.
Dogs can lose their sense of smell in cold weather. In snowstorms, they can panic and become lost and disoriented, even in once-familiar territory. Snow also has an insulating effect and muffles sound. Your pet may not hear oncoming cars or its own name when called.
Leaving your dog or cat in a car in the winter is just as deadly as leaving it in the car in summer. Pets have been known to freeze to death in a short amount of time; so, just don’t do it.
Our pets give us unconditional love, loyalty, and devotion. Return that love by giving them a healthy, comfortable life, no matter what the season.
Emergency Care Tips For Pets
Seeing your pet injured in an accident can be very distressing. HomeoPet (www.homeopetpro.com.), a company that provides advanced homeopathic pharmaceuticals to the veterinary field, put together these tips that owners can use to increase their pet’s chances of a speedy recovery.
1. Get your pet out of harm’s way. If your pet was involved in a road traffic accident, move it to the side of the road using slow, deliberate movements. You don’t want to scare an already frightened animal, or worsen injuries it may have suffered.
2. Call a veterinarian. Add your vet’s telephone number to your cell phone’s speed dial in case of emergency, or consult the phone book for the number of a local vet if you are traveling. Do not administer fluids or food to the animal (in case an anesthetic may be needed) unless instructed by the veterinarian, as in the case of an animal that has diabetes with low blood sugar.
3. Stop any bleeding. To stop heavy bleeding, apply firm pressure with a clean towel or cloth. This is usually better than a tourniquet, which can lead to tissue death from lack of oxygen. To stop a graze bleeding, apply powdered pepper or turmeric, which are easily available and work well as clotting agents.
4. Treat for shock. If an injured animal feels icy cold due to shock, wrap a plastic bottled filled with warm water in a towel to avoid burning or overheating the animal. Never put a hot water bottle directly against the animal. The animal also can be wrapped in insulating material such as a rug, a thermal blanket, or even bubble wrap. If an animal is in shock, a quiet, dimly lit space can be helpful.
5. Moving an injured animal. When a pet has been badly injured and is not easily handled due to pain, use a large rug to transport dogs, or a cage (or box) lined with a towel for small pets such as cats, rabbits, or hamsters. If you suspect fractures, a board can be used like a stretcher. Remember, even the most friendly pet may bite when it is in pain. A thick towel wrapped around your arm and hands can help. A tie or soft rope can be used as an emergency muzzle or leash.
6. Treating wounds. Clean wounds can be washed with calendula herbal tincture (available at most health food stores); add 10 to 20 drops to tepid water. Infected wounds can be safely cleaned with tepid salt water. Use as much salt as will dissolve in water.
7. Help the healing. Always carry a tube of healing cream for external application on wounds, cuts, bruises, burns, and bites.
Book Helps Travelers Find A Vet
You’re traveling in your motorhome hundreds of miles away from your home base, and suddenly your pet becomes very ill. You can’t get back to your regular vet, so you need to find someone in the area who can provide immediate attention to your pet. But where can you find such information quickly?
The answer may be the Pet E.R. Guide by FMCA member Melinda Lord ($19.95, Trailer Life Books). This 198-page book offers state-by-state listings for more than 700 after-hour and 24-hour veterinary facilities in the United States. Each listing includes the vet’s address, phone number, fax number, hours of operation, and Web site.
The guide suggests questions you should ask when making initial contact with a veterinary facility. It also provides ASPCA poison control information, emergency and evacuation planning information for your pets, and pages to help you keep records of critical information about your pets.
Visit www.petemergencybook.com for more information or to purchase the book. It also is available at online booksellers.