The Ottumwa Courier

November 4, 2013

Getting your pets ready for winter

DUANE NOLLEN
Oskaloosa Herald

OSKALOOSA —

As the thermometer starts to dip, it's time to think about getting your pets ready for winter.

Whether they are indoor or outdoor pets, you can do many things to get your pets ready for cold and snow. Stephen Memorial Animal Shelter Executive Director Lindsey Sime has some tips for pet owners.

First are the common-sense things, she said.

“For an indoor dog, limit his outdoor activity when it gets cold outside,” she said.

If you have a dog such as a husky, the dog can be outdoors. However, if you have a short-hair or a small dog, the dog should not be outside for long, she said.

For outdoor dogs, be sure they have a dog house stuffed with insulating materials such as straw or other bedding to make it comfortable for them to sleep. Also, check the dog's water dish to make sure the water is not frozen, Sime said.

Sime said dehydration is an issue for pets in both hot and cold conditions.

“It's just as important to have an ample supply of water,” she said.

When you take your pet out for a walk this winter, be careful where you walk. Salt that has been applied to sidewalks and roads can harm your pet's foot pads, Sime said.

There is pet-safe forms of salt to apply on sidewalks that can be bought at discount retail stores, she said. Also, you can put a balm on your pet's paws so the pads do not dry out, she added.

Sime said giving a pet as a Christmas present is not the best move.

“I suggest you not get a pet for Christmas,” she said.

If you choose a dog for a gift, that is a long-term — up to 15-years — commitment. She said the person receiving the pet needs to be in on the selection process.

“The novelty wears off,” she added. “I recommend buying supplies for the animal first” such as a litter box or cat toys. Later, you can pick out the pet together, she added.

Sime also recommended that pet owners make sure their animals are current with their vaccinations. Many illnesses can survive cold conditions.

Canine Parvo Virus is fairly common and can be contracted in this area, Sime said. Young and old dogs are susceptible to the illness, she said.

“It's easy to pick up,” Sime said. It is contracted through contact with bodily fluids. “Bleach is the only thing that kills it,” she added.

Both indoor and outdoor cats also need to have their vaccinations up to date. Rabies and upper respiratory infections are the big things to watch for cats, Sime said.

Distemper also is an illness in both dogs and cats that pet owners need to be on guard about.

“It's not so common around here, but it's hard to kill,” she said. It thrives in hot and cold, she added.

If you have a bird at home, be sure to keep the cage away from doorways and windows to avoid drafts of cold air. Sime recommends covering three sides of the bird cage with a sheet to shield birds from the cold.