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Horse Health | Keep Cold-weather Pet Dangers At Bay

Posted By: JR

Here’s a list of some of the most common winter hazardsthat can wreak havoc on you and your outdoor animals this season.

Catsand dogs

Enough dangers lurk in your garage to knock out afew your cat’s nine lives over the course of one night.

First, there’s antifreeze, which is extremely toxicto cats, dogs and kids.

“It’s sopotent, so deadly and debilitating in just small amounts,” says Dr. Jason Nicholas of The Preventive Vet , which helps petowners prevent emergencies. “Justone or two licks can put them into acute kidney failure, which is expensive anddifficult to treat.”

If your pet does get into antifreeze, get it to thevet immediately; there’s no effective antidote after 24 hours, Nicholas says.

The troublesome ingredient in the sweet-tasting substanceis ethylene glycol . Look for alternatives formulated with propylene glycol, afar less toxic ingredient.

Your car itself poses another danger. For cats leftoutdoors at night, a car engine compartment can seem like a warm, cozy place tocurl up. But in the morning when youstart up your car, your cat – or perhaps your neighbor’s – is in for a veryrude awakening. A fan belt can kill or inflict horrific injuries on a cat.

Before you go to work in the morning, “get in habitof banging on the hood or honking your car,” Nicholas advises.

Outside on the sidewalk (should we have anotherArctic blast), beware of ice-melting rock salts containing sodium or chloridethat can cause gastroenteritis or neurologic problems.

If your pet does walk on salted sidewalks, be sureto wipe the paws with a damp towel or baby wipes, Nicholas says.

You may want to protect your pup’s paws with dogboots. Bend-based Ruff Wear makes some designed for winter weather.

Since it gets dark so early in the winter time, aself-illuminating collar, leash or coat with reflective material can brightenyour pet’s night by increasing his visibility to drivers.

Coats are a particularly good idea for smallerbreeds, short-haired breeds, and senior dogs.

Doghouses should be insulated with straw, and positionthe house so the opening isn’t in line with the prevailing winds, especially ifyou’re east of the Cascades, Nicholas says.

Finally, be sure to check the water source often tomake sure it’s not frozen, so your pet always has fresh water to drink.


One of the most important things you can do forhorses in Oregon winters is offer them a dry place to stand, says Dr. Natasha Lefkowitz, an equine veterinarianwith Hood to Coast Equine VeterinaryService .

Make sure you get your horses out of the mudperiodically, clean their feet and use a hoof pick to remove mud. Constantexposure to moisture can cause painful hoof abscesses. Wetness can also lead to thrush – abacterial infection of the horse’s hoof tissue – and scratches, a dermatitiscaused by a mixed bacterial/fungal condition which, insevere cases, can lead to limb infections.

If you keep your horse in a barn, make sure it hasadequate airflow, Lefkowitz says.

Without adequate airflow, ammonia buildup from theirwaste can cause respiratory problems.

Also make sure to check your horse’s water supply,breaking any ice if needed. Withoutfresh water, your horse may become dehydrated,leading to colic.

If you choose to offer your horse a blanket, makesure to take it off occasionally to ensure that your horse is maintaining his body condition and that he or she isstaying dry underneath.

You’ll also want to ensure your horse has enough hay.Horses in pasture need supplemental hay to keep them warm. If you have an olderhorse, offer it senior feed.


Rabbit Advocates ,a Portland-based nonprofit devoted to the welfare of domestic rabbits, recommendsthat pet rabbits be kept indoors.

“Adoptions are made to inside homes for the safetyof the rabbit,” says Rabbit Advocates founder Mary Huey.

If you do choose to keep rabbits outdoors make sure to,er, batten down the hutches .

These animals are susceptible to attacks by anynumber of predators, including skunks, opossums, coyotes, raccoons and cats anddogs.

Make sure they stay warm and protected against theelements by lining the hutch with straw, aspen shavings or other materials.

“As long as there’s plenty of bedding for them andthe hutches are cleaned on a daily basis, they do fine,” says Dr. Ross Weinstein of North PortlandVeterinary Hospital .”The problems come if the hutch isn’t clean.”

Cold weather and ammonia buildup from the waste canmake a rabbit’s respiratory tract more sensitive, which can lead to pneumonia. Theirsimilarity to horse health issues leads Huey’s group to refer to rabbits as”little horses.”

Rabbits are actually fairly tolerant of the cold, but frozen water in their dish can leave them dehydrated, Weinstein says.

They also have very sensitive digestive tracts, and if they stop eating for even 24 hours, it can be a medical emergency. Weinstein notes that owners who keep their rabbits indoors are more likely to spot health issues immediately and develop a stronger bond with their pets.

Overall, just use common sense. Fido and Fluffy will thank you – and you’ll stay out of the doghouse, as far as they are concerned.

Tips for keeping animals safe in thecold

Keep antifreeze away from pets and kids, and clean up any spills immediately.

Keep your cat indoors at night, or at least offer a simple cardboard box lined with blankets for a warm place to sleep.

Bang on your car hood or honk your horn before starting your engine in the morning.

Purchase pet-safe ice melts.

Be careful walking on mud or ice – pets can slip and risk orthopedic injury, just like people.

Check your outdoor animal’s water source frequently to make sure it’s not frozen over.

Make sure rabbit and chicken hutches are securely shut to keep them safe from predators.

If ice crystals cling to the fur between Fido’s toes, wrap the frozen paw in a towel and let it thaw out. Don’t dip it in hot water or try to cut it with scissors.

Keep your dog on a leash if you and your dog are out in the snow; he could quickly get buried in a snowdrift.

Don’t leave pets in the car for very long, and make sure to provide adequate protection from cold, such as blankets or a coat.

At night, make your pet more visible by putting on a self-illuminating collar or reflective coat.

Periodically keep your horse out of the mud and clean its feet to prevent foot problems.

If you give your horse a blanket, make sure it’s waterproof; if moisture gets under the blanket, the horse can get rain rot.

Make sure horses and rabbits have a well-ventilated area. Ammonia build-up from their waste can cause respiratory conditions.

Keep rabbit hutches and chicken coops securely latched and safe from predators.

Choose a chicken breed more suited to cold northern climates rather than Mediterranean breeds.

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