ASPCA offers winter pet care tips

With dangerously low temperatures across the Twin Lakes Area the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has some cold weather safety tips to keep our furry friends alive and in good health. Exposure to winter’s dry, cold air and chilly rain, sleet and snow can cause chapped paws and itchy, flaking skin, but these aren’t the only discomforts pets can suffer. Winter walks can become dangerous if chemicals from ice-melting agents are licked off of bare paws. To help prevent cold weather dangers from affecting a pet’s health, experts offer several tips.Repeatedly coming out of the cold into the dry heat of a home can cause itchy, flaking skin. Keep the home humidified and towel dry your pet as soon as it comes inside, paying special attention to the feet and in-between the toes. Remove any snow balls from between the foot pads.

Never shave a dog down to the skin in winter, as a longer coat will provide more warmth. If your dog is long-haired, simply trim him or her to minimize the clinging ice balls, salt crystals and de-icing chemicals that can dry the skin, and don’t neglect the hair between the toes. If your dog is short-haired, consider getting a coat or sweater with a high collar or turtleneck with coverage from the base of the tail to the belly. For many dogs, this is regulation winter wear.

Bring a towel on long walks to clean off stinging, irritated paws. After each walk, wash and dry your pet’s feet and stomach to remove ice, salt and chemicals—and check for cracks in paw pads or redness between the toes.

Bathe your pets as little as possible during cold spells. Washing too often can remove essential oils and increase the chance of developing dry, flaky skin. If your pooch must be bathed, ask your vet to recommend a moisturizing shampoo and/or rinse.

Massaging petroleum jelly or other paw protectants into paw pads before going outside can help protect from salt and chemical agents. Booties provide even more coverage and can also prevent sand and salt from getting lodged between bare toes and causing irritation. Use pet-friendly ice melts whenever possible.

Like coolant, antifreeze is a lethal poison for dogs and cats. Be sure to thoroughly clean up any spills from a vehicle, and consider using products containing propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol.

Pets burn extra energy by trying to stay warm in wintertime. Feeding your pet a little bit more during the cold weather months can provide much-needed calories, and making sure it has plenty of water to drink will help keep it well-hydrated and skin less dry.

Make sure your companion animal has a warm place to sleep, off the floor and away from all drafts. A cozy dog or cat bed with a warm blanket or pillow is ideal.

Remember, if it’s too cold for you, it’s probably too cold for your pet, so keep your animals inside. If left outdoors, pets can freeze, become disoriented, lost, stolen, injured or killed. In addition, don’t leave pets alone in a car during cold weather, as cars can act as refrigerators that hold in the cold and cause animals to freeze to death.

Anyone suspecting an animal being abused or neglected is encouraged to call the Baxter County Sheriff's Office at 870-425-7000 or if in the city of Mountain Home call the Mountain Home Police Department at 870-425-6336.

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