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6 Seasonal Pet Tips: Winter Veterinary Care in Massachusetts

seasonal-tipVet care for cats and dogs is a year-round exercise. Beyond the annual check-ups and taking time to learn as much as you can about what your pets need, seasonal pet tips are essential, especially for pet owners who live in the northeastern states. With a full four seasons of dynamic weather changes and concerns to consider, taking care of your pet in the South Coast region can be a full time job. Your Dartmouth emergency vet at Anchor Animal Hospital can be a big help, reminding you when shots and heartworm treatments are needed, as well as preventatives for fleas and ticks. These services are all part of well-rounded veterinary care in Massachusetts to help you keep your pet healthy and happy all year long.

Tip #1 – Outdoor Pets
A lot of people have cats and dogs that live outdoors for the most part of their lives. If you are unable to bring your pets indoors during the winter months, make sure to at least have a warm place for them to sleep and relax. Provide a heated dog house or access to a heated garage area if the pet absolutely cannot or does not want to come indoors. Even though the thermometer might say one thing, the wind chill and presence of snow makes it much colder than the actual registered reading. Make sure there is shelter that will keep your pets warm and dry. Even indoors, non-carpeted areas can get extremely cold overnight. Make sure to provide pads, blankets and beds, whenever possible to keep your pets warm.

Tip #2 – Nutritional Needs
A lot of people don’t realize that your pet’s nutritional requirements can change during the winter months. Speak with your Dartmouth emergency vet about caloric requirements for outdoor or working dogs, as well as any changes that you might want to make for cats during the colder months. Additional calories can be needed because more energy is required to regulate body temperature during the colder months. Make sure that you make adjustments based upon your pet’s breed, size, weight and activity level.

Tip #3 – Extra Grooming
During the winter months, extra grooming could be required, especially for pets who spend a lot of time outdoors in the snow and ice. A well-groomed coat will also help your dog to stay warm. Sweaters and coats are a good idea for dogs who have short or coarse hair. Cats, such as Maine Coons, and dogs that have long hair around their toes, including Golden Retrievers, can require extra foot grooming to remove excess hair that could accumulate snow or ice around the foot pads when outdoors. If your pet gets wet outdoors, towel dry or even consider blow drying them to warm them up. Check paws to make sure they are clean and dry to prevent cuts and cracks in the pads from forming. If you are concerned about this or notice any injuries, make sure to get vet care for cats and dogs to prevent further complications.

Tip #4 – Out and About
If you take your dog for walks during the winter, make sure to take special care around frozen bodies of water. Ponds, lakes and even rivers that are frozen over can be tempting to want to play on – for dogs and humans alike – but just as it is easy for you to slip or fall into the water underneath the ice, many dogs get seriously injured in this way as well. Another issue is bringing dogs and cats along to run errands. Never leave your pet alone without considering the possible complications. If you leave the engine running to provide heat, the potential for carbon monoxide poisoning must be considered; however, if you leave the engine off, it could become dangerously cold inside the vehicle.

Tip #5 – Chemical Exposure
During the winter months, we use a lot of chemicals to deal with the freezing temperatures, snow and ice. Unfortunately, those chemicals are extremely dangerous to dogs. Antifreeze is an extreme danger to dogs, as it smells and tastes good to them, but is highly toxic and can become lethal when ingested. Bring your dog to your local Dartmouth emergency vet if you even think that he might have gotten into the antifreeze – do not take a chance. Rock salt, which many people use to melt the ice on steps, sidewalks and driveways, can cause a lot of irritation to sensitive footpads. Even if you don’t use it, make sure to rinse off your dogs feet and dry them after you go for a walk in the neighborhood.

Tip #6 – Keeping Warm
If you use extra heat sources to keep your pet warm, make sure that they cannot hurt themselves if they become curious. Vet care for cats and dogs that have been burned by portable heaters and fireplaces is common throughout the winter months. Use a fireplace screen to prevent your pet from getting too close and choose portable heaters that are kid and pet safe with safety features that shut the unit off if it is tipped over or over-heats for some reason. Many portable heaters have screens to prevent pets from coming in contact with the heat source, but you should also put them in a place where pets can’t reach.

When it comes to veterinary care in Massachusetts, it is important to bring your cats and dogs in for regular check-ups and to communicate any concerns that you might have with your veterinarian to ensure that your pet is in good health. Following these seasonal pet tips will help, but nothing is a substitute for proper vet care for cats and dogs year-round. In case of emergency, visit your Dartmouth emergency vet at Anchor Animal Hospital. For questions, additional information or to set an appointment, give us a call at 508-996-3731.