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Winter pet safety a concern

By John Boldrick

Courtesy of the Hastings Health Source [1]

Wind whips by Jake and Bo Jones as they walk down Victoria Avenue, braving the elements in the name of exercise.

Bo and Jake, have no hats, no boots and no mittens to protect them from the weather, although each has a coat.

Bo and Jake are dogs. Jake is a ten year-old black Labrador and Bo is a seven year-old jack Russell terrier. They venture out into the cold every other day with their owner, Cortis Jones, to keep active during the winter months.

Bo and Jake’s opinion on the season differs a bit. While Jake holds snow and ice in the highest regard, Bo is a fan of a fairer climate.

“Bo, he just likes to lie around and find a nice sun patch coming through the window,” said Jones.

Bo isn’t alone with his beliefs. Smaller Dogs with short coats don’t like the winter. They do put on a thicker winter coat, but it still isn’t enough.

Nancy Allin, a veterinarian technician at the Belleville Animal Hospital, said that while the hospital doesn’t see an increase in the number of injured pets coming in, winter still presents its own set of problems, especially for small dogs.

She recommends dogs with short coats shouldn’t be outside for too long on cold days. Longer coated-dogs, such as chows, collies and German shepherds, need not worry as much about the cold.

“If they’re long coated like huskies or dogs that are basically bred for cold weather then very little extra care needs to be taken,” said Allin.

If you own a short coated or smaller dog, there are ways to keep your pup from catching a chill. Winter wear such as boots and coats are available. Allin recommends owners consider such items for their pets.

While Jones does not currently have any winter clothing for his animals, he has considered getting Bo a coat for the cold winter walks.

Still, winter gear only goes so far. Sometimes the elements are too fierce to endure. Allin said that there are certain temperatures that are just too cold for animals.

“Common sense goes a long way. If it’s 30 below zero, would you go out without a coat?”

Jones said that there are some temperatures that he won’t go out in.

“When it gets, even Jake doesn’t like it, probably -15 or any more and I wouldn’t take them out,” said Jones.

The cold isn’t the only danger winter presents. There are other things to pay attention when taking your dog out.

Salts and sands used on sidewalks to melt ice can become very irritating for skin and paws. It can also cause allergic reactions, making pets chew on their legs and even burn the pads off of paws.

Jones said that while keeping your pets warm is important, he thinks that keeping their paws in tip top shape is something that cannot be ignore.

“You have to keep them warm obviously, you have to keep them active still, and the biggest thing I find is to keep their paws clear of ice and snow,” he said.

One of the biggest dangers to pets comes in the form of a winter necessity.

“Another danger, more so in the winter is anti-freeze. Spilling anti-freeze which is a definite poison to both dogs and cats, it’s sweet and they like it,” said Allin.

Ingesting anti-freeze can poison cats and dogs, and it is important to get them to a vet or hospital as fast as possible so it is not fatal.

“You have to get them in right away, it’s certainly poison control,” said Allin, “If they are seen right away, 90% of the time, unless they’ve gotten into an awful lot of it, they can be saved.”

She reminds pet owners to clean up any spills and keep anti-freeze out of pets reach.

While it may seem like a lot, Allin said that it is important to keep your pets active in the winter, while also keeping them healthy and happy.