12 tips to keep your pet warm and comfortable in winter
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Is your pet winterized? He may wear a fur coat, but your dog or cat still has special needs when temperatures start to drop and snow and ice blanket the ground. That goes double if he's a senior. Here are some tips to ensure your pet's safety in the face of winter's chill.
-- Does your pet spend time outdoors? He should have a cozy shelter available to protect him from wind and cold in case you're not home to let him inside. Cut down on the wind chill factor by attaching plastic sheeting to the side of a dog run or a plastic flap to the door of a doghouse.
-- Fresh water is a must year-round. Check outdoor water dishes daily to make sure they haven't frozen over. A heated water dish will ensure that your pet always has water available.
-- Bang on the hood of your car and honk the horn before starting the engine. Cats may be attracted to warm engines and climb in for a nap, so your noisemaking can save a life.
-- Be sensible about winter gear for your dog. An Alaskan malamute will revel in the cold, protected by his abundant coat, but a whippet, Chihuahua or other thin-skinned breed has little fur or fat for insulation. Put a coat or sweater on him before he goes outdoors.
-- What about booties? If streets or sidewalks have been treated with salt to melt ice, booties can keep the salt from irritating your dog's paws as well as prevent him from licking it off his skin.
-- If your dog has long fur or hair on his paws, snow or ice may accumulate between the footpads. Consider trimming the hair so ice balls don't form.
-- Keep your dog on a leash if you're walking along a street with him. Scott Shaw, DVM, an emergency and critical-care specialist at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, says it's not unusual for dogs to be hit by cars because the driver's vision is limited by snow piled on the side of the road.
-- Should your pet eat more in winter? Unless he's a highly active working dog or canine athlete, the answer is no. If he's not pulling a sled or going snowshoeing with you, he probably needs to eat less in winter so he doesn't pack on the pounds.
-- Just as you wouldn't leave your pet in a hot car during summer, don't leave him for long periods in a cold car during winter.
-- Puppies and senior dogs are more prone to hypothermia and frostbite than dogs in their prime. Never leave them outdoors for long periods. Prevent hypothermia and frostbite by limiting the amount of time they spend outdoors and drying them thoroughly when they come inside.
-- Getting a puppy during the holiday season? Be aware that it may be more difficult to housetrain him because both of you may be reluctant to go out in the cold. To prevent housetraining accidents, carry him outside and stay with him to make sure he potties before he goes back in. If you have a toy breed pup, you may want to paper train him or teach him to use a dog litter box until the weather warms up.
-- Dogs in their golden years may stiffen up with arthritis during winter or find it difficult to walk on ice or through deep snow. Help them stay comfortable indoors with a heated orthopedic bed to soothe achy joints. Outdoors, help him down icy steps and clear a path for him so he's less likely to fall.
What's the point
Q: My dog has been getting acupuncture for arthritis, and it really seems to help. I'm curious how it works. What can you tell me about it? -- via Facebook
A: Acupuncture is the insertion of fine, thin needles into the skin at strategic points on the body. In traditional Chinese medicine, these points were known as meridians, through which "chi," or life force, flowed; in modern medicine, we know them as the vascular, nervous and muscular structures of the body.
Insertion of the needles at specific points is said to help activate healing by stimulating nerve endings and releasing certain substances that relieve pain, reduce inflammation and improve blood flow and oxygenation. According to Douglas Stramel, DVM, who spoke on acupuncture last December at the CVC conference in San Diego, acupuncture doesn't treat specific symptoms, but instead stimulates the body to heal itself.
Most of us think of acupuncture as being used to relieve the pain of arthritis or other degenerative joint diseases. Other conditions that may benefit from acupuncture include gastrointestinal, respiratory or neurological problems. Veterinarians trained in the use of acupuncture have needled pets with upset stomachs, rhinitis, sinusitis, vestibular syndrome, hepatitis and allergies, among other things.
Depending on the problem, acupuncture may be the main treatment or a supportive treatment. For instance, acupuncture may serve to boost the effects of pain medication.
A first visit may take an hour or more, with follow-up treatments typically lasting 20 to 40 minutes. Acupuncture isn't an instant fix and can take several sessions before results are seen. Response varies. Some pet patients see improvement, with the remainder having little or no response. As with any treatment, it's essential to have an accurate diagnosis before using acupuncture. -- Dr. Marty Becker
Do you have a pet question? Send it to email@example.com or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.
Pets get a
ticket to ride
-- Amtrak now permits people to bring pets on board certain Northeast train routes. A cat or small dog confined to a carrier can ride the rails on trips up to seven hours. Available routes are Boston to Lynchburg, Newport News and Norfolk, Virginia; Northeast Regional service lines; and the Downeaster route from Boston to Brunswick, Maine. The pet fare is $25. With the pet inside, the carrier must weigh no more than 20 pounds. Pets must be at least 8 weeks old and have up-to-date vaccinations.
-- Got diabetes? Dogs can sniff out hypoglycemia -- low blood sugar -- simply from the scent of your sweat. Researchers tested six dogs who had been trained to detect hypoglycemia by taking sweat samples from their owners during both a hypoglycemic episode and a normal blood glucose period. They stored the samples in glass vials and then placed the vials in steel cans. The dogs correctly identified the hypoglycemic samples 87.5 percent of the time. "Our results suggest that properly trained dogs can successfully recognize and raise the alert about a hypo using smell alone," the researchers wrote.
-- The Siberian cat is Russia's natural feline treasure, with a long, triple-layered coat; a fancy ruff around the neck and "britches" on the legs; and an abundance of personality. These cats are friendly, intelligent and full of curiosity. Count on a Siberian outwitting you at every turn if you're not careful -- and maybe even if you are. He's one of the larger cat breeds, weighing up to 18 pounds or more, and his luxurious fur coat comes in all colors and combinations. Siberians have a reputation for being hypoallergenic, but that varies by individual. Some are more allergenic than others. Try before you buy. -- Kim Campbell Thornton
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. They are affiliated with Vetstreet.com and are the authors of many best-selling pet-care books. Joining them is dog trainer and behavior consultant Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/KimCampbellThornton and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.
CAPTIONS AND CREDITS
Caption 01: Dogs love to play in the snow. Check paws thoroughly afterward, remove ice balls and clean and dry feet thoroughly. Position: Main Story
Caption 02: The Siberian's coat sheds heavily in spring and fall and requires regular brushing year-round. Position: Pet Buzz/Item 3