Kids, cats and canine winter care

December 25, 2013 by  
Filed under Wind Energy Tips

Kids, cats and canine winter care

Angel Wheeler, a new resident of Ruidoso and mother of a two-year-old, would never send her child out in the cold to play without being properly dressed. Wheeler said the weather here can be temperamental so she likes to dress Emma in layers. Wheeler said it’s a good idea to keep a coat, hat and gloves in the car for just in case.

Like Emma, Wheeler pays close attention to the fur members of her family as they too are susceptible to the variable weather conditions in Ruidoso. Wheeler said she keeps her small short-haired Chihuahua mix in the house and the big dogs have a covered deck with blankets. On nights when the temperatures are very low and the weather is bad Wheeler said she brings the big dogs in.

Abel Guzman, manager for the Ruidoso Animal shelter, would consider Wheeler a model citizen when it comes to winter care for her furry and non-furry family members. Guzman said if it is too cold to be outside with just a T-shirt on, it is too cold for a dog to be outside without proper shelter or a sweater. Guzman said a used human sweater with the sleeves cut off works great and can be purchased at a thrift store. Wheeler said it might make good use for that ugly Christmas sweater. Wheeler is also a model citizen when it comes to providing proper shelter for her dogs, which includes a covered deck and used blankets. Guzman said all animals need a proper shelter from the winter elements if they are not brought inside the house.

Guzman said a proper shelter is covered, blocks out the wind, is raised off the ground and ideally has some used blankets and towels.

Cats are no exception and are just as susceptible to the elements as children and canine companions. Guzman recommends providing additional shelter for cats if they are not indoors. Guzman said that a simple shelter made from a styrofoam ice box will keep a cat sufficiently warm, especially if two or more occupy the space. Guzman said to cut two holes in the styrofoam ice chest, one for an entrance and one for an exit and make sure the holes are cut down low to keep the warm air in. Guzman said to anchor the ice chest by placing something heavy on top like a rock. Creating a cat’s winter castle can be a fun project for kids as Wheeler’s daughter decorated one with flower stickers for on of the outdoor neighborhood cats.

In addition to providing animal care tips during the winter season, Lane Dixon, associate veterinarian for Franklin Veterinary Clinic, took some time to provide a list of guidelines specific to the holidays. These precautions are similar to the precautions parents of small children should take as well specifically in keeping harmful substances like poisonous plants, special holiday beverages and extra electrical chords out of reach.

General concerns

Winter’s cold air brings many concerns for responsible dog owners. Keep the following precautions in mind:

• If you dog is an indoor dog, don’t leave your dog outside in the cold for long periods of time. Wind chill makes days colder than actual temperature readings. Be attentive to your dog’s body temperature, and limit its time outdoors.

• Adequate shelter is a necessity for outdoor dogs. Any time temperatures get below freezing (32 degrees Fahrenheit) make sure your dog has a dry warm place available, straw and blankets are suitable bedding.

• Be extra careful when walking or playing with your dog near frozen rivers or ponds. Your dog could slip or jump in and get seriously injured.

• Groom your dog regularly. Your dog needs a well-groomed coat to keep properly insulated. Short- or coarse-haired dogs may get extra cold, so consider a sweater or coat. Long-haired dogs should have excess hair around the toes and foot pads trimmed to ease snow removal and cleaning. If you do the trimming, take care not to cut the pads or other delicate area of the foot.

• Feed your dog additional calories if it spends a lot of time outdoors or is a working animal. It takes more energy in the winter to keep body temperature regulated, so additional calories are necessary.

• Towel or blow-dry your dog if it gets wet from rain or snow. It is important to dry and clean its paws, too. This helps avoid tiny cuts and cracked pads. A little petroleum jelly may soften the pads and prevent further cracking.

• Don’t leave your dog alone in a car without proper precautions. If the car engine is left on, the carbon monoxide will endanger your dog’s life. If the engine is off, the temperature in the car will get too cold.

Winter health tips

• Antifreeze, which often collects on driveways and roadways, is highly poisonous. Although it smells and tastes good to your dog, it can be lethal.

• Rock salt, used to melt ice on sidewalks, may irritate footpads. Be sure to rinse and dry your dog’s feet after a walk.

• Provide plenty of fresh water. Your dog is just as likely to get dehydrated in the winter as in the summer. Snow is not a satisfactory substitute for water. Always make sure your dog has available water, make sure the water is reachable and not iced over.

• Frostbite is your dog’s winter hazard. To prevent frostbite on its ears, tail and feet, don’t leave your dog outdoors for too long or make sure your outside dogs have adequate shelter.

• Be very careful of supplemental heat sources. Fireplaces and portable heaters can severely burn your dog. Make sure all fireplaces have screens, and keep portable heaters in a safe place.

• Like people, dogs seem to be more susceptible to illness in the winter. Take your dog to a veterinarian if you see any suspicious symptoms. Common winter diseases are pneumonia, diarrhea, foreign body ingestion, foot and pad irritation.

Holiday safeguards

The winter season brings lots of fun holiday festivities, but pet-owners should keep in mind the following special precautions:

• The holidays are not ideal for introducing a pet into your family. New puppies and dogs require extra attention and a stable environment, which the holiday season doesn’t permit. Also, a puppy is not a toy or gift that can be returned. Instead, try giving a gift representative of the dog to come, such as a toy, a leash, or a bed.

• Holly, mistletoe and poinsettia plants are pet poisons. Make sure they are kept in places your dog cannot reach.

• Review holiday gifts for dogs to make sure they are safe. Items such as plastic toys and small rawhide sticks may be dangerous.

• Remove holiday lights from lower branches of your tree. They may get very hot and burn dogs.

• Watch out for electrical cords. Pets often try to chew them and may get badly shocked or electrocuted. Place wires out of reach.

• Avoid using glass ornaments. They break easily and may cut a dog’s feet and mouth.

• Refrain from using edible ornaments. Your dog may knock the tree over in an attempt to eat them. Also, commercial ornaments may contain paint or toxins in the preservatives.

• Whether your tree is live or artificial, both kinds of needles are sharp and indigestible. Don’t leave your dog unattended in the room with the tree.

• Tinsel is dangerous for dogs. It may obstruct circulation and, if swallowed, block the intestines.

• Alcohol and chocolate are toxic for dogs, even in small amounts. Keep unhealthy, sweet treats and seasonal goodies out of reach.

• The holiday season is a stressful time for dogs. Try to keep a normal schedule during all the excitement. Dogs that stress can suffer from a disease called Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis. If you see bloody diarrhea please contact your veterinarian.

Guzman said that the village does have laws for proper care of animals. The vet said that Animal Control does spot animals that are not provided the appropriate safeguards. First steps in resolving the issue involve talking with the owner. On subsequent occurrences, a citation and court appearance could be warranted to determine proper placement for the animal or animals when an owner is unable to provide adequate care.

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