Pets and their human masters are about as different from one another as the number of legs each possesses, but the type of winter dangers that can seriously hurt humans can just as easily maim or kill a beloved pet.

Pets and their human masters are about as different from one another as the number of legs each possesses, but the type of winter dangers that can seriously hurt humans can just as easily maim or kill a beloved pet.

It’s one of the most beautiful times of the year, no doubt about it, but winter dangers lie hidden just beneath the surface for a pet feline or canine, said veterinarian Kim Daily.

“Frigid winds, deep snow (drifts), icy pavement, road salt that can irritate paws, antifreeze from the family car — all of these dangers hit an outside family pet at the same time,” she said. “Pet owners need to show responsibility ... to ensure their pets survive the winter.”

She said the most likely danger is the cold itself.

“Even dogs (or cats) with heavy coats are susceptible to low temperatures,” she said.

Daily added that animals are just as susceptible to injuries of the hips and joints should they lose their balance and fall atop an icy patch.

Another hazard this time of year is the dreaded automobile.

“One of the things is that cats like to seek shelter under the cars where the engines are warm. That’s something to be careful of,” Daily said.

For both dogs and cats, be aware that antifreeze is a toxin and should be kept well out of reach of animals.

“Remember, antifreeze is very sweet-tasting, but just a teaspoon can be deadly to a cat, and less than a tablespoon can kill a 10-pound dog,” she said.

Pets should also be kept up to date on their vaccinations during the winter.

Just as the chill outside poses dangers to humans, pets can suffer from the cold. If an indoor dog has to suddenly become an outside dog, even temporarily, the winter months aren’t the time to do it, Daily said.

“If the dog has been an indoor dog, his body won’t have developed the thick coat necessary to keep him warm during the winter months,” she said.

That being said, many dogs are fine outdoors in the winter as long as they have a shelter — though that doesn’t include breeds like poodles that need to have their hair clipped. Fine-haired dogs are inside pets and shouldn’t be kept outdoors in the winter.

“If you keep your pets outside, you must provide them with a shelter from the wind, such as a garage,” Daily said. “A doghouse should be well insulated and have a tunnel-style entrance that doesn’t let the wind penetrate.”

The popular Igloo dog shelters are a good example of this, with a tunnel to cut down wind. The shelter should be off the ground, otherwise moisture accumulates inside, forming ice and freezing the bottom of the shelter. Also, fresh hay or straw can be put down and changed periodically to provide additional comfort.

Carthage Press