Seasonal Care For Your Cat
COLD WEATHER CARE
Proper nourishment is a prime consideration. Well-nourished pets, particularly those housed outdoors, are better prepared to withstand the rigors of winter. Outdoor pets normally need more food to generate enough energy to cope with the cold. This is easily accomplished by feeding a high-quality nutritionally complete and balanced dog or cat food. You don't need any supplements unless your veterinarian recommends them for a health condition. If this is the case, chances are your pet should not be housed outside.
Along with a good diet, outdoor pets need fresh water. They cannot eat snow in sufficient amounts to prevent dehydration. Offer your pet fresh water several times during the day. Electrically-heated water bowls are available but they must be installed safely and monitored regularly.
If you notice a weight gain or loss, adjust food portions accordingly. If you have questions about your pet's body condition, check with your veterinarian.
Outdoor pets need housing to hide from severe cold. Your pet's shelter should be insulated, elevated, protected from prevailing winds and watertight. Because they use their own body to keep warm, the shelter should be small enough to preserve the pet's body heat. Bedding should be kept clean and dry.
An outdoor cat may find the shelter of a parked car appealing. Before starting a car, bang on the hood or raise it and conduct a "cat-safety-check."
Dampness is a winter danger. Dry your pet if it gets wet and do all you can to keep it dry. Another danger is antifreeze which is toxic to pets. They are attracted to it because of its sweet taste and lap it up when it is not properly disposed of. Store antifreeze where pets cannot reach it. Anti-freeze poisoning requires immediate veterinary treatment.
You may find your indoor pet experiencing dry skin and shedding. This is usually the result of low humidity. Frequent brushing helps remove dead hairs, skin and stimulates oil glands.
Although a fire in the fireplace is cozy, it may create problems for pets. Cats luxuriate in its warmth. Fireplace heat also contributes to dry skin. Fumes from the fireplace may cause respiratory problems in some pets. Keep fireplaces screened and train pets to keep a safe distance.
Fall and Winter Tips
All animals, wild and domestic, are naturally attracted to sweets. While the taste of anti-freeze is sweet, it's also poisonous. Clean spills up quickly. Even better, purchase anti-freeze that's "pet safe."
Sidewalk salt is caustic to animal paws. It can burn the paws as well as make the animal sick when they lick their paws. Shovel regularly and use a less hazardous substance like kitty litter or sand.
Since daylight hours are fewer in fall and winter, use a reflective collar on your dog when walking in the evening. Wear a jacket with reflective tape and carry a flashlight; this will keep both of you safe.
Cats seek warmth in car engines. If you have strays in your area, knock on the hood, loudly, before starting your engine, and keep your cat inside the house.
When outside, cats will also seek warmth from windowsills where heat is seeping out. This often causes the cat to freeze to the sill. Again, make sure your cat is safe inside and advise those in your area to do the same.
If your dog is outside in a doghouse, be sure the house is well insulated, off the ground, facing south, and has a flap over the door. If you have a doghouse you can donate to a less fortunate animal, call your local shelter. Your gift and thoughtfulness will be greatly appreciated.
Animals going outside in bad weather, even for short periods, should have an increase of fat in their diet. This will help maintain body heat.
During the holidays, keep chocolate out of reach of dogs. Even a little can make a dog very sick, and a lot is deadly. If you suspect your dog has eaten chocolate, call your vet immediately.
Don't feed your dogs bones as a holiday treat. Bones can splinter and lodge, or cut the throat, stomach, and intestinal tract.
While traveling with your pet, be sure to have an identification tag with information on where you can be reached quickly. Many Humane Society branches will make a "trip tag" for your animal for a small donation.
WARM WEATHER CARE
Being aware of threats to their comfort and safety can make summertime living easier for pets and pet owners alike.
The problem of fleas and ticks intensifies during summer months. Regular grooming not only helps control summertime shedding, but also helps in flea and tick control. Examine your pet's haircoat carefully during each grooming session for evidence of external parasites. Your veterinarian can recommend flea control products for your pet and its environment.
Many of the insecticides, herbicides and fertilizers we use to keep our lawns and gardens beautiful may be harmful or even toxic to a pet. Many garden and houseplants may cause irritation, illness or death if ingested by pets. Amaryllis, daffodil, tulip and iris bulbs, azalea, lily of the valley, yew, dieffenbachia, philodendron and caladium are a few of the plants toxic to pets. Plan your garden and arrange your houseplants to be off limits to pets.
Hot pavement, sticky tar or gravel may cause footpad problems. To remove tar from footpads, rub them with petroleum jelly and then gently wash with mild soap and water and rinse thoroughly. Never use kerosene or turpentine to remove tar. These chemicals irritate the skin and can be toxic to your pet.
Providing plenty of cool, fresh water will help keep your pet cool throughout the summer. Put a few ice cubes in the water bowl during periods of extreme heat.
Maintaining a comfortable environment for our pets is important. Pets who are left outside should have plenty of shade and cool water. Confinement in a car or any other poorly ventilated enclosure can be fatal to a pet. As temperatures soar, pets become more vulnerable to heat stress. Kittens and short-nosed breeds, like Persian cats and overweight pets and pets with cardiac or respiratory disorders become more vulnerable to heat stress. Adult pets more susceptible to heat stress.
Heatstroke is the most common kind of heat stress. It develops rapidly and is often associated with exposure to high temperatures, humidity and poor ventilation. Symptoms include panting, a staring or anxious expression, failure to respond to commands, warm, dry skin, extremely high temperature, dehydration, rapid heartbeat and collapse.
To treat heatstroke, immerse the pet in cool water or spray it with a garden hose to help lower its body temperature. If water is not available, apply ice packs to the head and neck and move it to a cool place at once. A gentle breeze from a fan may also be used. With any form of heat stress, prompt veterinary attention is important to deal with potential complications.
Any pet can suffer heat stress, not just dogs and cats, but some animals are more susceptible than others. Be especially careful with very young or old pets, pets that are overweight or have other health problems, and pets with thick fur.
Your pets are going to need plenty of fresh, clean water, and a shady place to get out of the sun. For dogs, you might want to put a child's wading pool in the yard filled with cool water. And hot pavement is hot pavement, whether you walk on two legs or four.
Never leave pets in a parked vehicle. At just 85°F, the temperature inside a car (even with the windows slightly open) will reach 102°F in 10 minutes. After a half hour, it'll get up to 120°F. At a body temperature of 107-108°F, your dog can suffer irreparable brain damage or death.
How do you know if your pet is suffering from heat stress? Look for heavy panting, salivation, warm dry skin, lethargy or unresponsiveness. If you suspect heat stress, spray the animal with cool water to reduce his temperature; you can also apply ice packs to his head, neck and belly. Then, contact a veterinarian.