Pup-aring your pets for winter

As colder weather approaches, East York pet owners are preparing to protect their furry friends from the chill.

Marilyn Murray, owner of For The Love of Animals on Pape Avenue, says it’s crucial to understand risks to pets over the winter season.

“Let’s face it: not many of us like Canada’s cold winters, and pets are no exception,” Murray said. “A pet with short hair or low to the ground needs greater protection from the cold, snow and salt. Older dogs can have such ailments as arthritis, which can become aggravated with the cold weather.”

For the more mature pooch, Murray recommends shorter walks on very cold days. In addition, a hot water bottle or heated rice/oat bag can be wrapped in a towel or placed under the animal’s bed to help keep them more comfortable.

And while we have all seen dogs walking around in winter coats and booties, this is no fashion statement. To get your dog used to its new winter outfit, Murray suggests test-driving the attire indoors first.

“Thankfully, most dogs tolerate wearing a coat or sweater better then they tolerate wearing boots,” Murray said. “Start by putting the boots on your dog for short periods of time several times a day, increasing the time as he/she adjusts. Make it a positive experience by praising your dog and offering treats.”

Cats also need special care during colder months, especially if your cat enjoys being outside.

“Ideally, cats should be kept indoors, but if that isn’t possible, shelter from the cold and wind should be provided,” Murray said. “For cats, a doubled large plastic storage tub with the lid on, and a hole cut into the side for easy entry, lined with a blanket or heavy towels will help keep the cat warmer and provide protection from the wind.”

As well as understanding how to “winterize” their four-legged companions, Murray says pet owners should also be aware of toxic and hazardous elements that animals may be exposed to during winter.

“Antifreeze poisoning is a big problem with animals that roam free. The antifreeze has a sweet smell that attracts animals, especially cats and wildlife. Be sure to keep any poisons tightly capped and locked away in the garage,” Murray said. “Every winter, many cats are injured or killed in car motor fans. They are attracted to the warmth of the motor. Before starting your car, bang on the hood or honk the horn to scare out a hidden cat.”

As for the forthcoming holidays, here are the things that Murray and other animal advocates say families should be aware of, so their pets enjoy the festive time-of-year too:

***Don’t change your pet’s diet at holiday time; avoid treats of holiday foods, including candy, nuts and chocolate

***Beware of unattended alcoholic drinks and guest medications left within reach

***Keep floral arrangements and holiday plants out of your pet’s reach — including poinsettias, mistletoe, mistletoe berries, holly, hibiscus and lilies. Sweep up needles from Christmas trees, boughs and garlands, etc.

***Likewise for tree ornaments, especially tinsel and glass ornaments and ornament hooks. Don’t let your pet drink Christmas tree water

***Secure electrical cords and batteries

***Don’t leave ribbons, plastic wrappings or Styrofoam packaging accessible

***Never leave a lit candle unattended

***Securely tie your tree to the wall do avoid rambunctious or excited cats or dogs from knocking the tree over

***Most importantly, enjoy the holidays with your pet!

For more information, visit http://www.loveofanimals.ca/