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Cold Weather Pet Precautions

Every year thousands of pets die of antifreeze poisoning, they are attracted to its sweet taste and lap it up when it's spilled on the ground or improperly stored. Antifreeze poisoning is most common during the fall, winter and spring months when automobile radiators are being drained and antifreeze containers are left open and accessible.

Symptoms include weakness, confusion, vomiting, muscular incoordination, unsteadiness similar to that exhibited by a drunk person, coffee-colored urine, convulsions and coma. All cases of antifreeze poisoning require immediate treatment by a veterinarian if the pet is to have a chance to survive. To make sure dogs and cats do not consume antifreeze, containers should be secured shut and stored in a place not accessible to pets. Make certain that pets are not in the vicinity when antifreeze is being drained.

More dogs are lost during the winter than any other season. Beware of the dangers involved in letting your dog romp off his leash on snow or ice. Dogs can lose their scent in snow and ice and easily become disoriented. They may also panic during a snow storm and run away.

Cats allowed outdoors face an additional danger from car engines since cats often climb into engines for warmth. If you own a cat that is permitted outside, be sure to thump on the car hood before you start your car during the cold weather. Many cats are fatally injured each year in this gruesome manner.

Frostbite is a real danger to animals as well as humans. An animals ears and scrotum are most likely to be affected because these parts of the body aren't protected by much hair and have a small blood supply. Mild frostbite will show itself as redness and subsequent skin irritation. Petroleum jelly applied to the affected area helps keep the area from drying out. On the other hand, severe frostbite is an emergency. The area will be white, very cold, and painful to the animal. DO NOT rub the area. The best thing you can do is keep the affected area wrapped so it won't thaw quickly and call your veterinarian immediately.

Outdoor dogs need more food during the cold weather. During the coldest months, pets may need up to 50% more calories to help maintain normal body condition and compensate for the effects of cold weather. Make sure your pet gets enough food to prevent it from losing weight. Keeping fresh drinking water available for your outdoor pet is also very important. Water can freeze over quickly on cold days and will either need to be replaced frequently or heated. Snow is NOT a satisfactory substitute for drinking water.

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