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Winter poses risks to pets

Leigh Ann Farris, civilian veterinarian at the Fort Rucker Veterinary Clinic, performs an examination on Shadow, a Maltese patient, Jan. 26, as her owner, Brenda Bowers, retired military, looks on. (Photo by Nathan Pfau)

Leigh Ann Farris, civilian veterinarian at the Fort Rucker Veterinary Clinic, performs an examination on Shadow, a Maltese patient, Jan. 26, as her owner, Brenda Bowers, retired military, looks on. (Photo by Nathan Pfau)

Published: January 28, 2016

FORT RUCKER, ALA. (Jan. 28, 2016) -- Although Mother Nature’s winter touch has been on the mild side so far in this area, it’s a safe bet that colder temperatures are on the way.

And when the temperatures drop, people should remember to keep their four-legged family members in mind, said Capt. Janas Gray, Fort Rucker Veterinary Treatment Facility officer in charge.

There are a lot of hazards that pets are exposed to during and after the holidays, and keeping pets safe is a continuous duty during the winter months, she said.

“Keeping pets safe should be a top priority in any pet owner’s life. We just want to make sure families are doing everything they can to keep their four-legged family members safe during the holidays,” she said.

Winter poses special risks to all pets. People should make sure to give their pets a safer, healthier cold-weather season by following these tips.

Gray advises that people keep indoor pets in a warm, dry area free of drafts, and elevate the pet’s bed off the floor. If pets can’t be brought indoors, people should provide outdoor dogs and cats with a dry, warm, insulated shelter out of the wind, but should at least bring their pet inside if the wind chill or other weather conditions become severe.

Additionally, people should feed their pet extra calories when temperatures drop, she said.

Cats and kittens often nap on warm car engines – people should knock on the hood or honk the car horn, and then wait a few moments before starting the car. Another automotive hazard to pets during the cold, winter months is antifreeze. Pets like the smell and taste of antifreeze, and consuming a small amount can be fatal to pets, said Gray. People should make sure to thoroughly clean up spills immediately, and tightly close containers and store them where pets cannot get to them.

People should also remember to groom their dog regularly, which can help keep the pet properly insulated. Short- or coarse-haired dogs may get extra cold, so consider a sweater or coat, said the vet clinic OIC.

“Also, don’t leave your dog alone in a car,” she said. “It gets too cold and carbon monoxide from an engine left running is dangerous.”

Gray said that people should make sure to listen to their pets and be observant of any changes in behavior as part of being a responsible pet owner.

“Dogs cannot talk to us when they are sick, so, as a responsible dog owner, it is important to pay special attention to your dog’s wellbeing during the winter season,” said Gray.

She reminds pet owners that pets can just as likely get dehydrated in the winter as in the summer and although Alabama winters are mild, frostbite is still a hazard.

“To prevent frostbite on ears, tails and paws, don’t leave your dog outdoors for too long. Be very careful of supplemental heat sources, also. Fireplaces and portable heaters can severely burn your dog,” she said.

Gray also said that just like people, dogs seem to be more susceptible to illnesses in the winter and to take pets to a veterinarian if any suspicious symptoms arise.

“Don’t use over-the-counter medications on your dog without consulting a veterinarian,” she added.

If pet owners have concerns or questions regarding care of pets during the winter season, contact the Fort Rucker Veterinary Treatment Facility at 255-9061.

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