By Capt. Chyna Wagoner
Special to GUIDON
It’s that time of year again — the leaves are well into their color show, and the weather is beginning to turn chilly as we progress further into autumn and begin our transition into winter.
As we pull out our flannel jackets and fuzzy scarves in preparation for the chill, it’s important to remember that our furry friends are going through the same transition. They are relying on us for comfort and safety as the days and nights get colder.
Just like humans, animals can suffer from frostbite and hypothermia. Pets should be kept indoors during cold weather. If bringing them into your home is not an option, make sure to provide sturdy and insulated pet houses that are wind-, rain- and snow-proof.
While many pets have a nice fur coat to help keep some of the chill out, it is not enough to fully protect them throughout Missouri’s winter.
Even pets with longer, thicker coats will need more than just their fur to stay warm. For your thin-furred pets, consider dressing them in jackets to protect them when going on outdoor excursions.
Keep an eye on your pet’s overall health throughout the winter, and be familiar with their limits.
Cold weather can exacerbate pre-existing health conditions such as arthritis, and pets with kidney, liver, heart or endocrine issues may have a harder time regulating their body temperature.
Small pets and pets with shorter legs tend to get colder more quickly because they are closer to the cold ground. If your pet is shivering, whining, their ears and paws are cold to the touch or they begin to slow down and seem weak, it’s time to go inside and warm up.
These are signs of hypothermia and must be addressed quickly. In addition, keep an eye on their foot pads for cold weather damage such as cracking, bleeding and ice accumulation between their toes, which can cause lacerations and other injuries.
When you do bring them inside, the Fort Leonard Wood Veterinary Treatment Facility staff recommend wiping their feet clean each time — ‘tis the season of antifreeze, salted roads and other de-icing chemicals which can be toxic to pets.
Keeping their feet clean and dry will prevent them from ingesting those potential toxins when they groom themselves. VTF staff recommend using pet-safe chemicals to keep your cars and driveways ice-free, and cleaning up any spills quickly.
Remember to keep your pets in mind when preparing your disaster/emergency kits, too. Ensure they are part of your plans and remember that they will need food and water.
If your pet is taking any prescription medications or parasite preventatives, make sure to take that into consideration. VTF staff recommend keeping at least 5 days of supplies on hand so that if there is an emergency, you and your pet will have enough supplies to get through.
If you have any concerns that your pet may be experiencing hypothermia, other cold-related issues or any other medical concerns, please consult your veterinarian immediately.
Have a safe and happy winter.
(Editor’s note: Wagoner is the Fort Leonard Wood VTF officer-in-charge.)