2013-01-25 / Columnists

Paw Prints

By Dr. Karina Salvo

Hot or Cold? How about comfortable? Many of our pets live inside our homes with us....some are outdoors...but temperature fluctuates from season to season... and can be variable within the same season. Just a week ago we experienced 60 degree weather and earlier this week we had snow and bone chilling temperatures! Bet you can't wait for summer! Our dogs somehow trudged through the soupy hot air on walks...scorching hot pavement, no breeze and what seems to be 200 percent humidity. Hot temperatures can affect our pets’ health by increasing their core body temperature to dangerous levels. Core body temperature fluctuations can alter the body’s mechanics by altering function of organ systems and the body’s ability to properly function... including the ability to cool.

Some pets suffer from obesity, arthritis, underlying heart disease or other illness as well as just have the anatomy that otherwise predisposes them to overheating (Bulldogs, Pugs, Pekingese, Boston Terriers, Mastiffs etc).

Keeping your pets in a stable and comfortable environment is important to avoid unnecessary increases in core body temperature. While out of the home, make sure your pets have free access to water as well as being kept in an area that does not get ‘too hot for comfort’. Each of our pets are different and are comfortable at different temperatures... be aware of these differ- ences and comfort zones and adjust your home as needed. Water on walks is a definite..for you and the dog!

Now that I have teased everyone with some warm weather thoughts..let's discuss this nasty chill we have upon us now. Think ahead...coats, boots, sweaters and hats! You may not be so inclined to walk the masculine Labrador down the street in a sweater but if you’re going for a walk we have some things to think about! Many of the little guys I lovingly describe as ‘living below the knee” usually stay indoors and use the weewee pad. They look at us as if we have three heads when we get all bundled up and open the door to snow or rain. Walk thereby cancelled! For those that are brave and will ‘weather the storm’, they may need a little extra layering! Ever walk in the snow without shoes? Bad idea. Many little doggie toes can become so cold that they can suffer from frostbite or injury without knowledge. Protect the toes! Overcoat! Here come the sweaters! Again, maintaining core body temperature is key. If for some unforeseen reason you get stuck outside we want all to be protected even Fido! You can safely use petrolatum jelly (vaseline without any fragrance) on the pads of little toes before going for a walk. This will help build a barrier between your dog's feet and the environment. Before coming in the house, use generic baby wipes to clean any vaseline or dirt residue. This is also a great idea to keep track of any toe injury, long nails and overall good practice for behavior of your pooch. Both vaseline and baby wipes are easy to get and cheap! No need to spend money on the fancy stuff!

All this talk about the dogs, what about our feline friends? They need protection from the elements as well. If living indoors, the same rules apply. Keep living quarters a comfortable temperature and allow free access to water. For our feline prowlers outside that refuse to enter our homes, provide an area outside that is sheltered from winds and can be protected from the elements. A warm blanket in a little ‘house’ area is a great idea as well. You can also use shredded newspaper (great source for maintaining heat) Water freezes so check it often (unless your fancy and have a heated water bowl!).

Temperature and fluctuations in temperature affect us all. Be aware of your pet’s comfort levels and make adjustments so that everyone can be comfortable! Spring is coming, so hang in there! Make sure your pet's are ready for flea and heartworm season! Hoping we don't have a repeat Antarctica this year!

If you have any questions, concerns or suggestions, please feel free to contact me about your pet's condition. 718-474-PAWS. Looking forward to any suggestions for future columns!

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