ISHPEMING - The cold temperatures can be just as hard on our pets as they are on us. Some owners may leave their pets outside for extended periods of time, thinking that they are adapted to living outside. This thinking can put their pets in life-threatening danger.
Susan Cannon, a doctor of veterinary medicine at Northern Veterinary Associates in Ishpeming, recommends following some basic guidelines to ensure that your pet will stay warm and safe during the winter season.
If your dog is an outdoor pet, make sure that they have been outside long enough through the autumn months to acclimate themselves and to grow an adequate coat needed to live outside in the winter, said Cannon.
Sharon Lazeren of Marquette holds the feet of her dog, Chloe, up to a sizing chart for a set of pet booties Wednesday at Mares-Z-Doats Feed, Lawn and Garden Supplies store in Marquette. (Journal photo by Andy Nelson-Zaleski)
Northern breeds such as huskies are perfect pets that can survive in the outdoors.
When you have to take your animal outside, it is a good idea to put a special sweater or jacket on them. The smaller "toy" breeds and larger short-haired dogs will need the additional covering to stay warm.
Proper shelter is needed for an outside animal, no matter the size.
"A good house that is well insulated and equipped with a door that will keep the breeze out," she suggested.
The house should be off the ground to keep it from getting wet and full of snow. The floor of the shelter should have an adequate bedding such as straw and should be changed every couple of weeks.
Whether your pet is inside or outside, make sure it has enough food and water. Outdoors dogs should be fed a good-quality food and, as it gets colder, they should be fed more.
Be cautious of the water dish. Always replenish it with fresh water and if your animal is outdoors, keep a close eye on the dish to make sure it doesn't freeze over.
"There are nice heated bowls that can plug in to keep the water from freezing, just be sure the wire is not visible so the pet doesn't attempt to chew it," Cannon said.
Whether your dog or cat is an outside or inside pet, be sure to check them for injuries and frostbite and be sure to inspect the pads of their feet.
Be aware that when your pet goes outside. it can pick up rock salt, ice and chemical ice melts in its foot pads. To keep your pet's pads from getting chapped and raw, wipe its feet with a washcloth when they come inside.
If tolerated, special booties can be worn that will help protect their paws from the winter elements and any chemicals or salts that are put on sidewalks and roads.
If the pet licks the salt from off its feet, it could cause an inflammation of their digestive tract.
"There are special pet friendly deicers that can be used that won't harm the animal," Cannon said.
When you're outside with your pets during the winter, look for signs that they might be cold. If they whine, shiver, seem anxious, slow down or stop moving, or start to look for warm places to burrow, they are probably ready to come back inside.
Watch your pet closely. If you have to take them out, stay outside with them. A good rule of thumb is if you start to feel cold, then they are probably cold as well.
Andy Nelson-Zaleski can be reached at 906-228-2500 ext. 256. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.