How owners can help pets in winter weather

Winter weather can pose a big risk for pets as well as their humans.

“Pets are at risk for the same kinds of problems we have in cold weather, mainly hypothermia and frostbite,” said Dr. Gloria Dorsey, vice president of medical services for the Atlanta Humane Society, “so the owner needs to really be considerate and not just open the door and allow their pets to go outside and relieve themselves.”

Experts say it’s important to supervise your pets when they’re outdoors.

Dr. Julian Peckich of Marietta Vet Clinic in Cobb County said dogs can slip on ice and hurt themselves. He advises pet owners to clean their walkways and use salt that is pet-safe. Some animals also may have a hard time if they have pre-existing medical conditions like arthritis, heart and kidney disease or are very young or old.

Xalina Babunovic, co-owner of Dog School 101 in Marietta, said during the last storm, several pet owners were unable to get to their homes to check on their pets.

She advises pet owners to find a trustworthy neighbor whom they can call to feed and check on their pets in the event they are stranded.

Dogs, especially, can live several days without food, but fresh water is critical.

She also advises owners to dress their pets warmly. If you don’t have a pet sweater, she said to consider a child’s sweater or T-shirt that can be adjusted to fit your pet.

Furry creatures aren’t the only ones at risk.

A prolonged power outage could spell big trouble for aquarium owners.

Bill Swiderski, owner of the Aquarium Center in Alpharetta, said a lack of power could affect water circulation, which means that over time the fish will use up the available oxygen.

How long it takes depends on the size of the fish, the amount of fish and the size of the aquarium.

One solution is to have a backup generator. However, less expensive alternatives include a backup battery or a battery-operated air pump with an air stone.

There’s also the issue of temperature. If a home doesn’t have power, it can get pretty cold inside, and that may affect temperatures in an aquarium. Swiderski said a backup battery or generator can help as well.

Here are additional tips from the American Veterinary Medical Association:

  • Consider shorter walks.    Long-haired or thick-coated dogs tend to tolerate cold better, but are still at risk. Short-legged pets may become cold faster because their bodies are more likely to come into contact with the cold ground.
  • Cold weather means dogs and their human companions should dress warmly. Be sure to dry your dog's sweater or coat each time the animal returns from outside. A wet sweater can make your pet colder.
  • Never leave your pet in a cold car.
  • Pets may become lost in winter because snow and ice can hide recognizable scents that otherwise would help your dog or cat find his way home. Make sure his collar has up-to-date information.
  • If your pet must stay outdoors, provide shelter against the wind. The floor of the shelter should be off the ground to minimize heat loss. Also add thick, dry bedding.