Winter Pet Safety: Plan for the Best and Prepare for the Worst

Winter Pet Safety

Cats and dogs have different needs when it comes to staying safe in the winter. Even cats who spend time outside during warmer weather often have little interest in going outside when the ground is covered in snow. Fortunately, cats have little reason to go outdoors in the winter when they have food, water, a litter box, and an enriching indoor environment.

It is a different situation with dogs. In addition to eliminating outdoors, they need daily walks and the opportunity to play outside to release their energy. Dogs can become destructive if denied these opportunities. Although going outside in the winter is unavoidable for dogs, we encourage you to limit their exposure to Wisconsin’s sub-zero temperatures.

You can prevent hypothermia and frostbite by dressing your dog in a hat and warm clothing. He may protest, but will eventually come to accept it if he wants to go outside. The snow and ice can be hard on your dog’s paw pads, so make sure you check them regularly. Cracking or bleeding means that ice has gotten stuck on his paw pads and caused damage. One way to avoid this is by staying clear of piles of ice when you walk your dog.

It is also important to trim the tiny hairs between each claw so it doesn’t become matted with snow and ice. Putting protective footwear over each of your dog’s paws keeps them warm and dry. Another good reason not to allow your dog on ice is that she may slip or fall through ice that isn’t strong enough to hold her weight.

Plan for Winter’s Worst
It is rare to get through a winter without at least a few severe weather events. Because of this, we encourage you to create a disaster kit with the needs of both the people and pets in your family in mind. It should contain a minimum of five days’ worth of your pet’s medication, food, and water in case you become stranded in your vehicle or lose power in your home.

Anti-Freeze Can Be Deadly for Pets
To a thirsty dog or cat, anti-freeze looks like a refreshing drink. Besides having a clear appearance, anti-freeze has no discernable odor to send a clue that it isn’t water. Drinking even a small amount of anti-freeze can poison your pet and cause him to become severely ill or die. Be sure to keep your pet indoors away from your car if you are unable to clean spills from your garage floor or driveway right away.

Your Pet Will Let You Know When It’s Time to Come Inside

Shivering, whining, and walking slowly are some of the signals your pet will send you that he is getting too cold. He may also act highly agitated or anxious. When running errands in the winter, it is best to leave your dog at home if you are unable to bring him inside with you. Too much time in a cold car in the winter can have disastrous consequences just like being left in a hot car in the summer.

Please don’t hesitate to contact Grantsburg Animal Hospital or Wild River Veterinary Clinic if you have additional concerns about your pet’s health and safety this winter.

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Have a Safe and Happy Holiday with Your Pet

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From a pet’s perspective, everything changes at this time of year. Between the decorations that suddenly appear and the delightful smells of holiday baking, dogs and cats are curious and eager to take part in your traditions. Unfortunately, this natural instinct to explore could get your pet into a situation that could harm her. The tips below will help keep her safe so you can enjoy a worry-free holiday season.
 
Ornaments, Lights, and Tinsel on the Christmas Tree
Both real and artificial trees have their benefits and drawbacks. One thing to keep in mind with live Christmas trees is that your dog may try to drink the water. Drinking water isn’t a bad thing, but insecticides the grower sprayed on the tree could make their way to the water and cause your dog to become ill. If you’re giving someone a gift of food, your dog may rip open the package and eat the contents before Christmas arrives. It is best to save wrapping these types of gifts until the last minute.
 
Putting a tree in a cat’s home with many bright things dangling from it may be subjecting him to more temptation than he can handle. While batting at Christmas tree decorations is fun and harmless, chewing or swallowing them can be dangerous. To avoid a potential choking hazard, be certain to tape down all wires and place all dangling ornaments at the top of the tree where your cat is unable to reach them. Since tinsel can cause extensive damage to the digestive tract, it might be best to avoid decorating with it altogether.
 
Menorah Candles
If you celebrate Hanukkah, your dog or cat will likely be curious about the Menorah candles. With a live flame, it only takes a quick bat at the candle or swish of the tail for your pet to start a fire or become seriously injured. For pet owners and parents of small children, we recommend using a battery-powered candle if possible. If that would detract from your celebration too much, just make sure to closely supervise pets and kids around burning candles.
 
Holiday Food Hazards
The powerful aroma of cooking food and seeing people with holiday treats may turn your dog or cat into a terrible beggar. No matter how much your pet begs or gives you sad eyes, don’t give in and share seasonal food and treats unless you know they’re safe.
 
Chocolate is especially toxic for pets. Some meats are okay to share in small amounts as long as they don’t contain any seasonings or bones. You can expect your pet to zero in on people dropping food or wrappers in the kitchen. The best way to prevent potential choking is to keep him in another room until people are finished eating and everything has been put away.

Be Patient with Your Pet

Your dog or cat is bound to pick up on the excitement and stress of the winter holiday season. This may cause her to misbehave to get your attention. Try to keep your pet’s routine as normal as possible and be sure to spend at least a few minutes of one-on-one time with her each day. While you can’t ignore bad behavior, don’t go overboard with punishment either. 

If you experience an emergency this holiday season when our clinics are closed, please call our after-hours line at 1-800-924-0588. 

Photo Credit: Ljupco / Getty Images

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Pet Safety Tips for the Thanksgiving Holiday

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It will soon be time to sit down for a Thanksgiving feast with your loved ones. While you’re enjoying good food and good company, don’t forget to keep an eye on your dog or cat. With so many extra people in the house and a disruption of the daily routine, your pet could easily get lost or get into things that could harm him. To prevent this, it’s best to assign one person to pet duty before company arrives or prior to arriving at your host’s home. This person should ensure that the front door remains closed except when new guests arrive. As they do, it’s especially important to supervise the pet closely.
 

Assess Your Pet’s Ability to Interact with New People
Thanksgiving Day brings several generations together, from the very young to the very old. If your dog or cat isn’t accustomed to small children trying to pet her or pick her up, it could be a disaster waiting to happen. You also don’t want an overly excited 100-pound dog knocking down an elderly relative. If you have any concerns at all, it’s best to err on the side of caution by placing your pet in a kennel or a room with a closed door until everyone has gone home.

A Word About Thanksgiving Treats
It’s never a good idea to feed a pet human food right from the dinner table as this teaches him poor manners. If you want to share a treat with your dog or cat, make sure it isn’t toxic first. A small amount of boneless turkey without any added seasonings should be fine as long as it’s not undercooked. However, you should avoid grapes, raisins, avocados, sages, bread dough, and cake batter altogether.

 
All of these foods can cause severe abdominal distress for your pet, which may quickly escalate into an emergency. It’s also important to make sure that no one drops any type of food wrapper on the floor, such as aluminum foil or plastic wrap. Your pet could be so enticed by the smell that she ends up eating the wrapper instead. Likewise, make sure the garbage can is in a secure place where your pet can’t reach it.
 

Post Emergency Phone Numbers in Advance
In spite of your best planning, your pet may still get into something harmful amidst the noise and confusion of a major holiday. Since it’s hard to think clearly in a crisis, make sure that you post the telephone number for the Pet Poison Helpline and our after-hours emergency answering service in an easily accessible place. 

The Pet Poison Helpline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-855-764-7661. Our after-hours telephone number is 1-800-924-0588 and is answered by a live person. If Dr. Palmquist is unavailable, our service will give you contact information for another local provider. Grantsburg Animal Hospital will be closed for Thanksgiving and wishes you a happy holiday.

Photo Credit Yin Yang / Getty Images

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Your Graying Pet: How to Provide the Best Care to Your Older Companion

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Companion animals are living longer than ever, thanks to improvements in veterinary technology and healthier diets. With more resources available to them, owners are more educated about pet care as well. Even so, caring for an aging pet can be challenging. Grantsburg Animal Hospital and Wild River Veterinary Clinic recommend bi-annual preventive care starting at age seven.
 
The common belief that pets age seven years for every one human year isn’t entirely correct. Dogs and cats actually age the fastest during their first year of life. A one-year-old pet is equivalent to a 20-year-old human. After the first birthday, the rate is approximately four years for every human year. Because of their rapid aging, it isn’t always easy to detect new health issues in your pet. Bringing her in for a bi-annual preventive care exam allows Dr. Palmquist to diagnose common age-related problems early.
 
Decline of Mental Functioning in Older Pets
One in three companion animals over age 10 has decreased mental functioning. By the time a pet reaches the geriatric stage at age 15, this goes up to 50 percent. While you can’t see what your pet thinks and remembers, you are likely to notice changes in behavior. Your dog who has been housebroken for years starts eliminating indoors or your usually docile cat becomes more aggressive. Because this can be confusing and upsetting for pet owners, they tend to react by punishing the dog or cat.

Your pet doesn’t understand why you’re punishing him and may react by avoiding you. This damages your bond. If you notice a marked change in his behavior, we encourage you to schedule a senior wellness exam as soon as possible.

Common Health Problems in Older Dogs and Cats
Some health conditions are especially common in older pets, regardless of breed. Some of the most prevalent issues for older companion animals include: 

  • Arthritis: Stiff joints, especially in the hips, can make it difficult for your pet to get around the house. 
  • Cancer: It may seem like more animals you know have cancer, but this is largely due to pets living longer lives. The incidence of all types of cancer increases in dogs and cats over age 10. 
  • Diabetes: This often goes hand in hand with obesity and can be managed well with some lifestyle changes. 
  • Dental disease: This is a widespread problem among pets of all ages, but it becomes especially problematic for older pets. Many already struggle with lack of appetite and may give up on eating when it becomes painful or difficult. 
  • Heart disease: Cardiomyopathy, which is degeneration of the heart muscles, is particularly common in the senior pet population.
 
A high percentage of older cats have kidney disease while senior dogs struggle most with vision and hearing problems. Preventive care for your senior pet is essential to maintain quality of life. If your pet over age seven has gone more than half a year without a check-up, please contact us to schedule an appointment. 

Photo Credit: Adam88xx / Getty Images

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