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Keeping pets safe in winter months


December 19, 2019

There are many precautions we take to keep ourselves warm and safe during the cold winter months, however; there are numerous cold weather dangers that can also impact not only your pet’s safety, but their health as well. Of course, our four-legged family members are covered in fur, but many just aren’t equipped to handle the serious threats that come with the frigid winters in Montana. Not to mention, our pet’s curious noses go into overdrive with all the sweets and savory foods around the home during the holidays. Despite the fact many people are already aware of the risks associated with this time of year, here are some helpful tips to make sure your pets are warm and safe during the next couple of months.

Wanda Thorpe, Operations and Financial Manager of the Thompson River Animal Care Shelter (TRACS), had several pet safety tips concerning outdoor safety and food cautions to share. Her first concerns had to do with one of our favorite holiday traditions, the Christmas tree. “You have to be really careful with trees and pets over the holidays”, Thorpe stated. Shatter proof ornaments can be your best friend, and not lining the bottom of the Christmas tree with lights will help keep curious animals at bay. “The glass ball ornaments can easily break and shatter, but the tinsel is really dangerous”, she continued. According the PetMD, tinsel is known as a foreign linear body, which acts like a piece of string, and looks particularly appealing to cats. The stringy tinsel has the ability to wrap itself around the base of the pet’s tongue, if swallowed, there’s a possibility the piece of tinsel goes “down the wrong pipe” and the pet chokes, or it makes its way to the intestines causing all kinds of damage. Because the tinsel won’t break down, it will cause a blockage in the stomach resulting in surgery. While the tinsel is trapped in the stomach, as the intestines contract, the tinsel becomes a saw and will essentially, cut through the tissue. Resulting in a severe intestinal rupture, which will then need to be followed by expensive and scary abdominal surgery. Long story short, get rid of the tinsel.

Thorpe then moved on to outdoor safety for our pets. “In terms of the cold environment, and keeping pets outside all day; it’s like putting a fur coat on a human and expecting them to stay warm. Pets should always have an indoor environment over the winter”, Thorpe said. She then added on that pets need some kind of enclosure to keep the heat in and close to them, as well as some kind of bedding to keep them off the cold floor. Straw is a great insulator for heat, and is a cheap form of bedding, that when it gets wet you can just toss it away, whereas an actual pet bed will need to be washed to prevent mold from growing. Thorpe then expressed the dire need for fresh water all the time for our pets, “they don’t benefit from eating ice, and they don’t get the liquid nutrients they need to stay hydrated from frozen water”.

Ice melt is another common problem this time of year for pets. The chemicals found in this liquid, can cause irritation on the pads of your pet’s feet. If ingested, the sodium chloride and the calcium chloride, even in small amounts, can be deadly for your animals. A dog’s paws should always be cleaned after a walk outside. Thorpe noted that there are winter jackets and booties for sale right now at TRACS, for a donation of your choice.

We are surrounded by good food from the beginning of the winter up until the very end; Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and even Valentine’s Day. While it is natural to want to spoil our pets during these times, even small treats can result in some unforeseen ramifications. Thorpe mentions chocolate and raisins, which can be deadly to all animals. However, there may be a few we aren’t fully aware of. “There are a variety of foods that are problematic for animals to eat, especially if people have ‘counter surfers’,” Thorpe says. Both garlic and onions contain toxins that are deadly to cats and dogs. Leftover meat scraps that contain a lot of fat can cause severe inflammation in the pancreas, which will lead to abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea.

When it comes to this time of year and the holidays, it’s always good to be informed for the safety of our pets. If you are looking for more winter tips to keep your pet safe, check online at the Humane Society of US, or the ASPCA.


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