Winter storm pet safety reminders from Fidelco veterinarian Dr. RuthAnn Solomon, DVM

BLOOMFIELD, Conn. – Winter weather isn’t just hazardous to people, it’s dangerous for our pets, too! As Connecticut braces for a winter wallop, Dr. RuthAnn Solomon DVM, Director of Animal Medicine at the Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation wants residents to remember these key points to keep their pets warm and safe. By planning ahead of the storm, pets and people will be properly prepared!

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DURING THE STORM 

Keep your pets inside! All pets need shelter and insulation from the cold. Cats and dogs may wear fur coats but they aren’t equipped to be out in freezing temperatures for long periods of time. Domesticated animals are not adapted to the cold like wolves or bobcats. Bottom line- if it’s too cold for you to stay outside, it’s too cold for your pet.

If you absolutely must keep an animal outside, be certain it has an insulated shelter, access to plenty of fresh (not frozen) water and increase their food to two times normal serving, e.g., if they get one cup of kibble per meal, give them two cups for that meal. A pet’s energy requirements increase to maintain body temperature (shivering for example) and those living in a very cold climate have a greater caloric need just to stay warm than the average dog that lives indoors.

If you need to go outside during the storm, limit exposure and make sure your dog is on a leash and wearing an ID tag. During heavy snowfall, they can lose their scent and become lost. More dogs get lost during winter than any other time of year.

Keep candles, heat lamps and space heaters away from pets, children and flammable materials. These are all burn and fire hazards.  Inspect any pet heating blankets or pads for frays or exposed wires, and never leave a pet unattended with such a device.

For those that use duraflame logs, those logs are actually sawdust pulled together with wax. Those two ingredients make for an attractive snack for dogs! Duraflame log ingestion will usually just cause mild gastric upset; however the problem arises when the dog eats a big piece which could cause an intestinal obstruction.  So please leave these logs of convenience well out of reach of your pets.

AFTER THE STORM

Protect those paws! Ice and snow can easily collect between paw pads. Check your dog’s feet periodically, especially if they are limping or walking awkwardly.

Keep dogs off the ice and away from frozen bodies of water. Thin ice poses a grave danger for pets and humans alike, and even a walk on an icy sidewalk puts your pet at risk of injuries like torn ligaments and footpads.

Salt, antifreeze (ethylene glycol) and chemical de-icers on roads and sidewalks are dangerous for your pet. Dogs that lick their paws or fur and ingest these substances can become ill. Wipe your pup’s paws, legs and stomach with a warm, wet washcloth after walks and outdoor playtime.

Speaking of antifreeze, there are two commercial products available in the US that have a “safer” chemical (propylene glycol) in them: Sierra and LowTox. However, just because they are safer does not mean that they are non-toxic! For example, it would only take ONE teaspoon of ethylene glycol antifreeze (more dangerous form) to be deadly to a 7lb cat. It would take several ounces of the safer form to be a problem.

REMEMBER

Take extra care with puppies and older dogs, especially those with arthritis. Wet, cold weather can worsen arthritis symptoms. Do not leave young, old or sick dogs outside unattended at any time.

Certain medical conditions like diabetes can affect your pet’s ability to regulate body temperature. Check with your veterinarian.

Further, winter does not necessarily mean the end of bug season. Likewise, winter does not mean you should stop giving heartworm, flea, and tick preventatives to your cherished companions. As the old saying goes: It is better to be safe than sorry and continuous use of these preventatives is the simplest act you can make to keep your pet safe.

Lastly, have the following numbers programmed into your charged cell phone:

-Your veterinarian

-Local animal emergency clinic

-Poison Control (1-800-222-1222)

-ASPCA Poison Control (1-888-426-4435)

For more information, please visit www.fidelco.org or “like” us on Facebook at facebook.com/fidelcoguidedog

About Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation

The Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit based in Bloomfield, CT. Fidelco is an internationally accredited organization and an admired expert throughout the world for its highly valued German Shepherd Guide Dogs.

Each Fidelco Guide Dog takes two years, 15,000 hands-on hours and $45,000 to produce. They are given to clients at no cost. Fidelco provides 24/7 client support for the entire working life of its guide dogs – typically 10 years. Fidelco relies solely on the generosity and financial support of individuals, foundations, corporations and civic organizations to help Share the Vision®.

Fidelco has trained and placed over 1,350 German Shepherd Guide Dogs throughout North America – in 41 states and five Canadian provinces. Fidelco pioneered In-Community Placement in the United States — a process that allows all guide dog users to be trained in the communities where they live and work.

Fidelco also has placed hundreds of its German Shepherd Dogs with law enforcement agencies, first responders, search and rescue, and missing child recovery organizations to help protect our fellow citizens and keep our communities safe.

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