Saturday, December 3, 2011

Winterizing Your Pet and Holiday Safety Ideas

I started out writing about the Holidays and pet safety. I decided to include cold weather, winter and general safety ideas for the holiday seasons coming up: Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa and any other holiday season that occurs in the cold Northeast region of the USA during this time of year.
Before you do anything to protect your pet, take your pet for a winter check-up before winter kicks in. Your veterinarian can check to make sure they don’t have any medical problems that will make them more vulnerable to the cold.
Cold weather can be hard on pets, just like it can be hard on people. Sometimes owners forget that their pets are just as accustomed to the warm shelter of the indoors as they are. Some owners will leave their animals outside for extended periods of time, thinking that all animals are adapted to live outdoors. This can put their pets in danger of serious illness.
Keep your pets inside as much as you can when the mercury drops. If you have to take them out, stay outside with them. When you’re cold enough to go inside, they probably are too. If you absolutely must leave them outside for a significant length of time, make sure they have a warm, solid shelter against the wind, thick bedding (hay is a great insulator that they can snuggle down in), and plenty of non-frozen water.

Cats will curl up against almost anything to stay warm--including car engines. Cats caught in moving engine parts can be seriously hurt or killed. Before you turn your engine on, check beneath the car or make a lot of noise by honking the horn or rapping on the hood.
If you light a fire or plug in a space heater to keep your home toasty warm, remember that the heat will be as attractive to your pets as to you. As your dog or cat snuggles up to the warmth, keep an eye out to make sure that no tails or paws come in contact with flames, heating coils, or hot surfaces. Pets can either burn themselves or knock a heat source over and put the entire household in danger.
Pets that go outside can pick up rock salt, ice, and chemical ice melts in their foot pads. To keep your pet’s pads from getting chapped and raw, wipe the feet with a washcloth when your pet comes inside.
Never let your dog off the leash on snow or ice, especially during a snowstorm, dogs can lose their scent and easily become lost. More dogs are lost during the winter than during any other season, so make sure yours always wears ID tags.   
Like coolant, antifreeze is a lethal poison for dogs and cats. Be sure to thoroughly clean up any spills from your vehicle, and consider using products that contain propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol.
Hanukkah and Christmas can be happy events but the holidays can be disastrous and even downright deadly for pets. Seasonal decorations, ornamental lighting, ingestion of inappropriate or toxic items, excessive consumption of rich foods or harmful food, candle flames, candles and many other hazards can happen at this time of year.  
Remember that plants (holly, mistletoe, poinsettia, lilies, Christmas rose, etc,) are poisonous to pets.   
 Unsecured Christmas trees pose hazards to climbing critters as they can topple or be knocked over.
Don't forget to prevent the ingestion of Christmas tree water since stagnant water or preservatives can be toxic.
Mistletoe, holly berries and poinsettia plants can be poisonous to pets, causing severe upset stomachs. Pine needles can irritate a pet's intestine and cause an emergency visit to the vet. Consider using repellent sprays or a doggie gate to help keep pets away from areas and objects that may be harmful.
Other holiday hazards include menorahs, candles and liquid potpourri pots.
Electrical cords, heated decorative bulbs, hooks, and a wide variety of other adornment items create temptations.  
Keep trash lids on tight. Chewed aluminum foil and e-coili are risks to pets.
Store food in secure containers out of reach to prevent ingestion or poisoning.
Rich foods and inappropriate feeding can create health complications for household critters. Dangerous food items include holiday favorites such as chocolate, coffee, onions, fatty foods, alcoholic beverages, and cooked or raw bones.
During holiday parties, pets may not understand why their usually quiet home is filled with people and noise. Provide pets with a quiet place to retreat. This way, they can choose whether to come out and visit or keep to themselves.
With a little forward thinking, before the excitement of holiday times begin, think your way through the types of hazards your pet might decide to get involved with. This is not a complete list of do's and don't, but hopefully it will stimulate your thinking enough and possibly prevent a catastrophic event during the holidays.

Seasons Greetings!

The Providence Veterinary Hospital Blog is a publication of Peter Herman, VMD, at the Providence Veterinary Hospital, 2400 Providence Ave. in Chester, PA. Contact Dr. Herman at 610-872-4000 or visit us at