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Pet safety: travel and winter weather

By Roberta Tolan
Special to The PREVIEW

Whether you leave your pet at a kennel or load them up in the car and take the on a road trip, there are steps you can take to make your travels less stressful for all.

Dr. Kate Anderson, pet care program administrator for the Colorado Department of Agriculture, offers the following advice.

“A change in routine such as a new location, traveling, and meeting new animals can be stressful for pets and this makes them more prone to illness. One of the most important steps for keeping them healthy is to make sure they are up to date on their vaccinations. Check with your veterinarian to make sure your pet is properly protected against any diseases to which they may be exposed.”

Other tips include:

Leaving your pet at a kennel.

• You can request an inspection history of any kennel, shelter or doggy daycare by contacting the Colorado Department of Agriculture.

• Also consider asking a friend, veterinarian, dog trainer or local animal shelter staff for their recommendations. This is often a great resource.

• Don’t just drop your pets off. Make a visit to the facility first, meet the staff and make sure you’re comfortable with it.

• Bring comforting objects with familiar scents from home, if the kennel allows it. Their usual bedding, toys, chews and snacks will help them relax and settle in for their visit.

• Look at the other pets that are boarded while you visit. Do they look relaxed and content?

Traveling with your pet.

• Make sure you have food, water and toys available. But don’t feed your dog a lot before the trip as they are prone to motion sickness.

• In the event that your pet gets away from you on your trip, you can increase the chances of recovery by making sure they can be properly identified by a microchip or tag.

• It’s also a good idea to exercise your pet before traveling. Helping them burn off extra energy will keep them from getting over-excited on the road.

• Don’t leave your pet in a parked car, especially when it’s warm. Even with the window cracked open, the car can quickly turn into an oven.

• A crate is an excellent way to keep your pet safe in the car, and is required for airline travel. It can also keep your pet from becoming a distraction as you drive and help protect them from severe injury in the case of an accident.

 Other tips 

The following tips are provided by Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and The Humane Society of the United States and include seasonal advice and information for pet owners.

• Winter can be life-threatening for pets, with extra health hazards presenting issues.  Antifreeze is tasty but fatal to pets unless emergency care is started within a few hours. Even small amounts of the substance licked off a cat or dog’s paws or lapped off the sidewalk could be life-threatening. Store antifreeze in an area away from pets and immediately clean up any spills or leaks. If you suspect a pet has ingested antifreeze, seek emergency veterinary care. Symptoms of antifreeze poisoning include drunken-like behavior, vomiting, excessive urination and drinking, and acting depressed and moving unstably. Pets may appear to recover within a few hours, but antifreeze continues to poison their system and is often fatal.

• Many people remember to winterize their homes and cars for Colorado’s colder weather, and it’s also important to remember to pay special attention to keeping pets safe and warm. During cold weather, pets need extra shelter and outdoor pets may need to be brought inside. When temperatures dip below 32 degrees, it’s a dangerous time for pets — but even warmer temperatures can be dangerous for your pet if it is wet.

• Outdoor pets need appropriate shelter to protect them from frigid temperatures. Make sure they have access to shelter such as a building or garage that is stocked with food and water. If necessary, provide them with a heated water dish to prevent the water from freezing. Use plastic food and water bowls rather than metal; when the temperature is low, your pet’s tongue can stick and freeze to metal. If there are feral or stray animals in your neighborhood, remember that they need protection from the elements. It’s easy to give them shelter.

• It is also important to be on the lookout for pets seeking warmth in dangerous places such as under warm vehicles. Warm engines in parked cars attract cats and small wildlife that may crawl up under the hood. To avoid injuring any hidden animals, bang on your car’s hood to scare them away before starting your engine.

• Consult with your veterinarian about any dietary adjustments for optimal health during the winter. Active pets may need extra calories.

• When walking a dog in cold weather, remember that their feet are unprotected from cold, so keep walks short — or suspend them during especially frigid weather-and examine their paws before and after each time you exercise to ensure that they aren’t injured. When letting pets outside, do so only briefly during extreme cold. The salt and other chemicals used to melt snow and ice can irritate the pads of your pet’s feet. Wipe all paws with a damp towel before your pet licks them and irritates his/her mouth.

• Pets can experience hypothermia and frostbite. Signs that your pet is in trouble and needs immediate veterinary attention include shivering, acting disoriented and lethargic or its hair puffed out and standing on end. Signs of frostbite include changes in skin color, such as bright red, pale or black. Skin at the tips of ears, on extremities and the scrotum are particularly at risk.

This story was posted on December 26, 2013.