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Keep Man's Best Friends Warm and Cozy in Winter

Protect your pets from cold weather

SUNDAY, Dec. 8, 2002 (HealthDayNews) -- Don't give your best friend the cold shoulder.

Dogs, cats, birds and other pets are just as affected by cold weather as their human companions and need appropriate protection, says information from Mississippi State University.

Old, sick, newborn and pregnant pets are especially vulnerable to cold, so it's essential they stay indoors during cold weather and get plenty to eat.

Dogs and cats need to stay dry during the winter. If they get wet, their fur coats can't provide the necessary insulation. So, if you have dogs or cats that have to stay outside in the winter, you have to provide them with shelter from wind and rain.

Small dogs and cats shouldn't be kept outside, due to their lower body mass. However, it's OK to take them outside for short periods.

Some people have sweaters to keep their dogs warm. It's a good idea, but dogs with sweaters need to be supervised. If the sweater's threads get caught on something, the dog may get stuck and unable to get back inside to warmth.

Hypothermia is a major risk for hunting dogs, especially those that go into water to retrieve ducks and other waterfowl. If you're a hunter, bring towels so you can dry off your dog after it goes into the water to retrieve a bird.

If you're going to be out for a long time, give your dog regular snacks so it has enough energy to maintain body temperature.

Pet birds need to be kept indoors during winter and should be in a room with a constant temperature. Birds are sensitive to inhalation agents, so you need to keep them away from fireplaces, wood stoves and conventional stoves.

Your pet snake can also be affected by winter chill. Make sure snakes and other reptiles keep their body temperature above 75 degrees Fahrenheit, or their immune system weakens. An external heat source, such as a heat lamp or heating pad, will help provide the necessary warmth for your pet snake or other reptile.

However, remember to keep heating pads on a low setting and cover them with a towel, or your reptile may get burned. Here's a good rule of thumb -- if you can't keep your hand under a heat source for an extended length of time because it's too hot, then it's too hot for your reptile pet.

More information

The University of Minnesota has more cold weather pet tips.

SOURCE: Mississippi State University, news release, December 2002
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