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Vets say pet owners should take precautions

November 27, 1996


Staff Writer

Holiday time can be hectic, and veterinarians and others warn pet owners not to forget to take precautions to keep the family pet safe and warm.

"Cats and dogs both need protection from wet and cold" weather, said Shelly Moore, executive director of the Washington County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Small dogs and cats and short-hair dogs should be kept indoors during the winter months, Moore said.

Dogs kept outdoors should be in dry, elevated shelters with bedding such as wood chips or hay, Moore said. Blankets or towels aren't good because they can freeze in wet weather.


Dog houses can be elevated on two-by-fours or cinder blocks to keep pets off the ground and prevent rain and snow from entering the shelter, she said. A piece of carpeting nailed to the door should provide protection from the wind.

Those adjustments to the dog house should help the family pet retain body heat while inside the shelter, Moore said.

Extra calories can help keep a dog warm. Talk to a veterinarian about increasing feeding for outdoor pets, she said.

Some outdoor cats and kittens seek warmth on car engines, so Moore suggests that drivers, especially those in rural areas, honk their horns or knock on the hoods to scare off any felines before starting the engines.

Another winter hazard is the sweet smell and taste of antifreeze, which can be deadly to cats and dogs, Moore said. Spills should be cleaned up immediately and antifreeze containers kept out of reach.

Salt poured on ice can damage paws, so pets' paws should be cleaned when they are brought inside, Moore said. Be sure all the salt is removed.

Some nontoxic antifreeze and salts are available, and could cut down on the chances of pets getting hurt, said Virginia Scrivener, veterinarian at the Animal Health Clinic of Funkstown.

The water supply for outdoor pets should be checked regularly to make sure it hasn't frozen.

Another holiday no-no is sharing Thanksgiving turkey dinner with pets.

"Never give them turkey bones, even though it's tempting," Moore said. Small bones can splinter, making them "harmful and deadly," she said.

If a cat or dog gets into the trash where bones were tossed, contact the family veterinarian to find out what symptoms to watch for in case of a problem, Moore said.

Many Christmas decorations, including ornaments on a Christmas tree, can be dangerous to pets, Moore said. Pet owners may want to keep pets, especially young, mischievous kittens and puppies, in rooms without access to the tree.

Pet owners shouldn't put aspirin in the Christmas tree's water supply because it can be deadly to pets that drink from that water, Scrivener said.

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