Dogs often can use help in wintertime

Is your pet winterized? He may wear a fur coat, but your dog or cat still has special needs when temperatures start to drop and snow and ice blanket the ground. That goes double if he’s a senior.

Here are some tips to ensure your pet’s safety in the face of winter’s chill.

▪  Does your pet spend time outdoors? He should have a cozy shelter available to protect him from wind and cold in case you’re not home to let him inside. Cut down on the wind chill factor by attaching plastic sheeting to the side of a dog run or a plastic flap to the door of a doghouse.

▪  Fresh water is a must year-round.

▪  Bang on the hood of your car and honk the horn before starting the engine. Cats may be attracted to warm engines and climb in for a nap, so your noise-making can save a life.

▪  Be sensible about winter gear for your dog. An Alaskan malamute will revel in the cold, protected by his abundant coat, but a whippet, Chihuahua or other thin-skinned breed has little fur or fat for insulation. Put a coat or sweater on him before he goes outdoors.

▪  Should your pet eat more in winter? Unless he’s a highly active working dog or canine athlete, the answer is no.He probably needs to eat less in winter so he doesn’t pack on the pounds.

▪  Just as you wouldn’t leave your pet in a hot car during summer, don’t leave him for long periods in a cold car during winter.

▪  Puppies and senior dogs are more prone to hypothermia and frostbite than dogs in their prime. Never leave them outdoors for long periods. Prevent hypothermia and frostbite by limiting the amount of time they spend outdoors and drying them thoroughly when they come inside.

▪  Getting a puppy during the holiday season? Be aware that it may be more difficult to house-train him because both of you may be reluctant to go out in the cold. To prevent house-training accidents, carry him outside and stay with him to make sure he potties before he goes back in. If you have a toy breed pup, you may want to paper train him or teach him to use a dog litter box until the weather warms up.

▪  Dogs in their golden years may stiffen up with arthritis during winter or find it difficult to walk outside. Help them stay comfortable indoors with a heated orthopedic bed to soothe achy joints. Outdoors, help him down steps.

Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and Kim Campbell Thornton. The two are affiliated with