SRVH News

8 Jan 2014

Cold Weather Pet Safety

Submitted by Dr. Lori Bieber

You’re probably already aware of the risks posed by warm weather and leaving pets in hot cars, but did you know that cold weather also poses serious threats to your pets’ health?

Here are some tips to keep your pets safe during cold weather:

Winter wellness: Has your pet had his/her preventive care exam (wellness exam) yet?  Cold weather may worsen some medical conditions such as arthritis. Your pet should be examined by a veterinarian at least once a year, and it’s as good a time as any to get him/her checked out to make sure (s)he is ready and as healthy as possible for cold weather.

Know the limits:  Just like people, pets’ cold tolerance can vary from pet to pet based on their coat, body fat stores, activity level, and health. Be aware of your pet’s tolerance for cold weather, and adjust accordingly. You will probably need to shorten your dog’s walks in very cold weather to protect you both from weather-associated health risks. Arthritic and elderly pets may have more difficulty walking on snow and ice and may be more prone to slipping and falling. Long-haired or thick-coated dogs tend to be more cold-tolerant, but are still at risk in cold weather. Short-haired pets feel the cold faster because they have less protection, and short-legged pets may become cold faster because their bellies and bodies are more likely to come into contact with snow-covered ground. Pets with diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, or hormonal imbalances (such as Cushing’s disease) may have a harder time regulating their body temperature, and may be more susceptible to problems from temperature extremes. The same goes for very young and very old pets. If you need help determining your pet’s temperature limits, consult your veterinarian.

Provide choices: Just like you, pets prefer comfortable sleeping places and may change their location based on their need for more or less warmth. Give them some safe options to allow them to vary their sleeping place to adjust to their needs.

Stay inside. Cats and dogs should be kept inside during cold weather. It’s a common belief that dogs and cats are resistant than people to cold weather because of their fur, but it’s untrue. Like people, cats and dogs are susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia and should be kept inside. Longer-haired and thick-coated dog breeds, such as huskies and other dogs bred for colder climates, are more tolerant of cold weather; but no pet should be left outside for long periods of time in below-freezing weather.

Make some noise: A warm vehicle engine can be an appealing heat source for outdoor and feral cats, but it’s deadly. Check underneath your car, bang on the hood, and honk the horn before starting the engine to encourage feline hitchhikers to abandon their roost under the hood.

Check the paws: Check your dog’s paws frequently for signs of cold-weather injury or damage, such as cracked paw pads or bleeding. During a walk, a sudden lameness may be due to an injury or may be due to ice accumulation between his/her toes. You may be able to reduce the chance of iceball accumulation by clipping the hair between your dog’s toes.

Play dress-up: If your dog has a short coat or seems bothered by the cold weather, consider a sweater or dog coat. Have several on hand, so you can use a dry sweater or coat each time your dog goes outside. Wet sweaters or coats can actually make your dog colder. Some pet owners also use booties to protect their dog’s feet; if you choose to use them, make sure they fit properly.

Wipe down: During walks, your dog’s feet, legs and belly may pick up deicers, antifreeze, or other chemicals that could be toxic. When you get back inside, wipe down (or wash) your pet’s feet, legs and belly to remove these chemicals and reduce the risk that your dog will be poisoned after (s)he licks them off of his/her feet or fur. Consider using pet-safe deicers on your property to protect your pets and the others in your neighborhood.

Collar and chip: Many pets become lost in winter because snow and ice can hide recognizable scents that might normally help your pet find his/her way back home. Make sure your pet has a well-fitting collar with up-to-date identification and contact information. A microchip is a more permanent means of identification, but it’s critical that you keep the registration up to date.

Stay home: Hot cars are a known threat to pets, but cold cars also pose significant risk to your pet’s health. You’re already familiar with how a car can rapidly cool down in cold weather; it becomes like a refrigerator, and can rapidly chill your pet. Pets that are young, old, ill, or thin are particularly susceptible to cold environments and should never be left in cold cars. Limit car travel to only that which is necessary, and don’t leave your pet unattended in the vehicle.

Prevent poisoning: Clean up any antifreeze spills quickly, as even small amounts of antifreeze can be deadly. Make sure your pets don’t have access to medication bottles, household chemicals, potentially toxic foods such as onions, xylitol (a sugar substitute) and chocolate.

Protect family: Odds are your pet will be spending more time inside during the winter, so it’s a good time to make sure your house is properly pet-proofed. Use space heaters with caution around pets, because they can burn or they can be knocked over, potentially starting a fire. Check your furnace before the cold weather sets in to make sure it’s working efficiently, and install carbon monoxide detectors to keep your entire family safe from harm. If you have a pet bird, make sure its cage is away from drafts.

Avoid ice: When walking your dog, stay away from frozen ponds, lakes and other water. You don’t know if the ice will support your dog’s weight, and if your dog breaks through the ice it could be deadly. And if this happens and you instinctively try to save your dog, both of your lives could be in jeopardy.

Provide shelter: We don’t recommend keeping any pet outside for long periods of time, but if you are unable to keep your dog inside during cold weather, provide him/her with a warm, solid shelter against wind. Make sure that they have unlimited access to fresh, non-frozen water (by changing the water frequently or using a pet-safe, heated water bowl). The floor of the shelter should be off of the ground (to minimize heat loss into the ground) and the bedding should be thick, dry and changed regularly to provide a warm, dry environment. The door to the shelter should be positioned away from prevailing winds. Space heaters and heat lamps should be avoided because of the risk of burns or fire. Heated pet mats should also be used with caution because they are still capable of causing burns.

Recognize problems: If your pet is whining, shivering, seems anxious, slows down or stops moving, seems weak, or starts looking for warm places to burrow, get them back inside quickly because they are showing signs of hypothermia. Frostbite is harder to detect, and may not be fully recognized until a few days after the damage is done. If you suspect your pet has hypothermia or frostbite, consult your veterinarian immediately.

Be prepared: Cold weather also brings the risks of severe winter weather, blizzards and power outages. Prepare a disaster/emergency kit, and include your pet in your plans. Have enough food, water and medicine (including any prescription medications as well as heartworm and flea/tick preventives) on hand to get through at least 5 days.

Feed well: Keep your pet at a healthy weight throughout the winter. Some pet owners feel that a little extra weight gives their pet some extra protection from cold, but the health risks associated with that extra weight don’t make it worth doing. Watch your pet’s body condition and keep them in the healthy range. Outdoor pets will require more calories in the winter to generate enough body heat and energy to keep them warm – talk to your veterinarian about your pet’s nutritional needs during cold weather.

8 Jan 2014

It’s estimated that between 25 and 40 percent of dogs and cats and 31 percent of people in this country are overweight. Studies have found that other domesticated animals, including horses, are also prone to obesity.

 “Taking a dog for a walk is healthy for both the dog and the dog’s owner. The companionship of a pet provides us with an extra incentive, and inspiration, to get out and work out,” says Dr. Clark K. Fobian, president of the AVMA. “Just like humans, overweight dogs and cats are more likely to get a number of diseases and health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, skin conditions, liver disease, and joint problems. So putting yourself and your pet on a diet and exercise regimen will result in improved health for 2014 and perhaps a longer life for both you and your pet. On a personal note, that will be my New Year’s resolution for 2014 as well.” 

AVMA’s pet weight-loss tips: 

  • A visit to your veterinarian is the best way to determine if your pet is overweight, but there are things to look for to determine if you should make an immediate appointment for a puppy or kitty weigh in. A dog should have a discernible waist without fat deposits, and ribs should be easy to feel while stroking a dog. In cats, if there is any rounding of the abdomen or bulging in the back, limbs, neck or face, you’ve got a fat cat.
  • Feed your pets at least twice a day, and keep track of how much they eat (your veterinarian may ask). If the pet hasn’t finished their food after about 20 minutes, take the bowl away to discourage overeating.
  • Monitor the number and size of the treats you give. A large dog treat can be over 100 calories, while a small treat has as little as 10 calories. If you can’t help but repeatedly treat your beloved pet (because they’re so incredibly good), break the snacks in half or even thirds to cut the calories.
  • Talk to your veterinarian about the best weight reduction plan for your overweight pet.
  • To exercise a cat, engage them with a feather, string or laser pointer, and try to get them running after a toy as they swat at it. To exercise a dog, consider agility training, play time with other dogs, and chasing a ball or Frisbee. There is no better exercise for dogs, horses and humans than a brisk walk.
  • Hypothyroidism is a risk factor for obesity in humans, dogs and cats, but it’s much easier to diagnose in humans. If your dog or cat is obese without a clear cause, make a veterinary appointment.
  • Finally, if your pet is a little on the pudgy side, and you think it might benefit from an increased exercise regimen, see a veterinarian first. No exercise program should begin without a veterinary checkup.
26 Sep 2013

Traveling with Your Pet FAQ

Submitted by Dr. Lori Bieber

What should I think about when deciding to travel with my pet?

Whom should I contact as I am considering travel arrangements?

What should I bring with me on my trip?

Where do I get a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (health certificate) and acclimation certificate, if needed?

Can I bring my pet out of the country with me?

Can I bring my pet camping?

Forms of travel

Q: What should I think about when deciding to travel with my pet?

A: There are numerous considerations you should take into account:

  • Make sure your pet is comfortable with travel
    • Some pets cannot handle travel because of illness, injury, age or temperament.
    • If your pet is not good with travel, you should consider a reliable pet-sitter or talk to your veterinarian about boarding facilities in your area.
  • Make sure your pet has identification tags with up-to-date information.
  • Having your pet implanted with a microchip can improve your chances of getting your pet back if it becomes lost. The microchip must be registered with your current contact information, including a cell phone number. A tag is included when you have a microchip that has the microchip number and a mobile contact of the owner, so if the pet is found, they can use the tag to determine ownership without having to contact a veterinarian. Contact the microchip company for a replacement tag if you've lost yours, and for information on how to update your personal information when traveling.
  • If you are taking your pet across state or international borders, a health certificate is required. The health certificate must be signed by a veterinarian after your pet has been examined and found to be free of disease. Your pet's vaccinations must be up to date in order for the health certificate to be completed.
  • Make sure that your pet is allowed where you are staying. Some accommodations will allow pets and some will not, so check in advance. Also, when traveling, you should bring a portable kennel with you if you have to leave your pet unattended.
    • Staying with Friends or Family: Inform your host that your pet will be coming along and make sure that your pet is a welcomed guest as well.
    • Staying in a Hotel or Motel: Stay at a pet friendly place. Some hotels and motels only accept small pets or pets under a certain weight; when making a reservation, make sure you inquire about the terms of their pet policy. Try to minimize the amount of time your pet will be alone in the room. When leaving your pet alone in the room, inform the front desk that your pet is being left alone in the room and place a "Do Not Disturb" sign on the door. Make sure the hotel/motel knows how they can contact you if there are any problems.
    • Staying at a Park, Campground or Marina: Make sure these places are pet friendly, clean up after your pet and always keep your pet on a leash.

Q: Whom should I contact as I am considering travel arrangements?

A: All of the following are important:

  • Your veterinarian
  • The airline or travel company
  • The accommodations: hotel, motel, park, camping ground or marina
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal & Plant Inspection Service, Veterinary Services: www.aphis.usda.gov/vs/sregs or 800-545-USDA (8732) and press #2 for State Regulations
  • Foreign Consulate or Regulatory Agency (if traveling to another country)
    • If you are traveling to another country (or even Hawaii), there may be quarantine or other health requirements
    • If traveling out of the continental United States, you should contact these agencies at least 4 weeks in advance

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Q: What should I bring with me on my trip?

A: You should bring the following items with you:

  • Your veterinarian's contact information
  • List of Veterinarians and 24 hour Emergency Hospitals along the way and close to your destination
    To find a listing of Veterinarians & Pet Emergency Hospitals in the United States, contact:
  • National Animal Poison Control (ASPCA Web site)
    888-426-4435
  • Identification
    • Current color photo of your pet
    • ID tag should include:
      • Owner's name, current home address and home phone number
    • Travel ID tag should include:
      • Owner's local contact phone number and address
      • Contact information for your accommodations (hotel, campground etc)
    • The microchip registration should be updated with your current contact information including a cell phone number.
  • Medical Records
    • Current copies of your pet's medical records including pre-existing conditions and medications (especially when re-locating or traveling out of the country). For travel within the United States, a brief summary of medical conditions would be sufficient.
  • Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (health certificate)
    • Proof of vaccinations (Proof of rabies vaccination required) and other illnesses
    • Requires an examination by a licensed and accredited veterinarian to make sure the animal is not showing signs of disease.
  • Acclimation certificate for air travel
    • This is only required by some airlines, so check to see if your airline requires this.
  • Items for your pet
    • Prescribed medications (adequate supply for entire duration of trip and several days' surplus supply, just in case)
    • Collar, leash, harness
    • Crate
    • Bed/blankets
    • Toys
    • Food and cool, fresh water
    • Food and water dishes
  • First Aid Kit for your pet
    *For more information on Pet First Aid and First Aid Kits, please go to the AVMA Pet First Aid Site

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Q: Where do I get a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (health certificate) and acclimation certificate, if needed?

A: Many states require an up-to-date Certificate of Veterinary Inspection from a licensed, accredited veterinarian when traveling. Your pet must be examined by a veterinarian in order for a health certificate to be issued. This certificate basically indicates your pet is healthy to travel and is not showing signs of a disease that could be passed to other animals or to people. Certain vaccinations must be up to date for a health certificate to be issued. As part of the exam, your veterinarian may check for heartworm disease and prescribe heartworm preventative medication. When you return home, your veterinarian may recommend a follow-up examination to make sure that your pet did not pick up any diseases or parasites while traveling.

You will need a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection to travel and some airlines require an acclimation certificate. Both of these certificates can only be completed and signed by a federally accredited veterinarian.  All the veterinarians at South Russell Veterinary Hospital, Inc. are federally accredited and can provide these certificates.

View AVMA's video about travel certificates for pets and livestock.

Q: Can I bring my pet out of the country with me?

A: Yes, but keep in mind that you have to follow both the United States regulations as well as the regulations in the other country to which you are traveling.

You should contact the Consulate or Embassy in that country to find out their regulations. Talk to your veterinarian about the risks of disease to your pet and have your pet vaccinated appropriately based on the risks. Some countries (and Hawaii) require quarantine of your pet upon arrival, Knowing the requirements before you travel helps you decide if you are going to take your pet or leave it at home, and prepares you for what to expect if you do take your pet with you.

Q: Can I bring my pet camping?

A: Yes. The same rules apply when taking your pet camping. Talk to your veterinarian about flea, tick and heartworm prevention as well as specific risks associated with camping outdoors. (such as leptospirosis and other diseases).

Keep your pet on a leash and in your sight; and be considerate of other campers. Clean up after your pet.

Being outside, your pet can be exposed to many different wild animals like skunks, raccoons, snakes and other animals that can injure your pet or expose them to disease. Do not let your pet chase or come into contact with wildlife—it can be dangerous for both your pet and the wild animal.

View AVMA's information for outdoor enthusiasts.

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Forms of travel

Traveling by Plane | Traveling by Boat | Traveling by Car | Traveling by Train or Bus

Traveling by Plane

Q: What can I do to prepare my pet for air travel?

A: The following preparations will help both you and your pet:

  • Check with airlines because they may have restrictions on breed and size.
  • Most airlines also require a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (health certificate) issued within 10 days of travel.
  • Federal regulations require pets to be at least 8 weeks old and they should be weaned at least 5 days before flying.
  • Talk to your veterinarian about feeding schedules. It is usually recommended that pets fly on an empty or nearly empty stomach. The pet's age, dietary needs and size, and the time and distance of the flight should all be taken into consideration.

Q: What is the best way to choose flights appropriate for my pet?

A: The following will help you choose flights that are appropriate:

  • Reservations should be made for you and your pet at the same time because airlines often limit how many pets are allowed on each flight.
  • Try to book a non-stop flight and avoid plane changes when possible.
  • When possible, avoid flying during busy holidays.
  • In warm weather, choose early morning or late evening flights.
  • In colder weather, choose mid-day flights.
  • Reconfirm flight arrangements the day before you leave to minimize the chance of unexpected changes.

Q: What should I do on the day of the flight?

A: On the day of your flight:

  • Arrive to the airport early so you have time to exercise your pet.
  • If your pet will be in the cabin, check in as late as possible to reduce the time your pet will have to wait in the terminal.
  • Place your pet in its crate and pick it up as soon as you arrive at your destination.
  • Notify the flight attendant that your pet is in cargo hold.

Q: What is an acclimation certificate?

A: This is a form from your veterinarian that will waive the low temperature Federal regulation as stated in the Animal Welfare Act.

  • If the airline cannot guarantee that the animal will not be in temperatures lower than 45°F (7.2°C) for more than 45 minutes when the animal is moved between the terminal and the plane, or for more than 4 hours when the pet is in a holding facility, and you don't have an acclimation certificate, the airline will not let your pet fly.
  • Airlines cannot ship animals if temperatures will be higher than 85° F (29.5 C) for more than four consecutive hours while in animal holding areas of airport terminals or for more than 45 minutes while transferring the animal between the aircraft and the animal holding area, under any circumstances.

Q: Do I need to get an acclimation certificate?

A: Some airlines will require an acclimation certificate in order to let your pet travel.

  • Acclimation certificates are written at the discretion of the veterinarian, and are based on the veterinarian's assessment of the pet's health.
  • There are no acclimation certificates that allow pets to be shipped when conditions are above 85°F (29.5°C).

Q: Should I tranquilize or sedate my pet for long flights?

A: It is recommended that you DO NOT give tranquilizers to your pet when traveling by air because it can increase the risk of heart and respiratory problems. Short-nosed dogs and cats sometimes have even more difficulty with travel. Visit AVMA's FAQs about short-nosed dogs and air travel for more information.

Airlines may require a signed statement that your pet has not been tranquilized prior to flying.

According to Dr. Patricia Olsen with the American Humane Association, "An animal's natural ability to balance and maintain equilibrium is altered under sedation and when the kennel is moved, a sedated animal may not be able to brace and prevent injury."

Q: What are crates approved for air travel?

A: It is best to purchase an approved crate prior to travel (at the airline or local pet store) so you have time to let your pet get used to the crate and be comfortable. If your pet is small and can fit comfortably in an airline approved carrier, your pet may be able to travel with you in the cabin.

Approved crates should:

  • Be large enough for your pet to stand (without touching the top of the cage), turn around and lie down
  • Be strong and free of interior protrusions, with handles or grips
  • Have a leak-proof bottom with plenty of absorbent material
  • Be ventilated on opposite sides, with exterior knobs and rims that will not block airflow
  • Be clearly labeled with owners name, home address and phone number, destination contact information and a sign stating "Live Animals" with arrows showing which way is upright

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Traveling by Boat

Q: How do I prepare my pet for traveling in my boat?

A: For personal boats, take time to allow your pet to become familiar with your boat.

  • Provide a ramp for your pet to easily get on and off the boat, or carry your pet on and off the boat.
  • Call ahead to make sure the marina or park is pet friendly.

Q: What items should I bring with me to keep my pet safe?

A: Bring the following items:

  • Your pet should wear a proper-fitting personal flotation device (a life jacket) at all times to keep your pet safe in and around water, even if they know how to swim.
  • Applying sunscreen prevents sunburn to your pet, especially pets with light skin and short or thin haircoats. Ask your veterinarian to recommend a non-toxic, non-skin irritating sunscreen for your pets.
  • Provide non-slip bathroom rugs to assist your pet from sliding on the wet boat and from burning their paws.
  • You should have your pet in a carrier, or on a harness or leash to prevent them from jumping or falling overboard.

Q: How will my pet go to the bathroom when on a boat?

A: You can train your dog to use a piece of astroturf, a box of sod or newspaper. For cats and other small animals that use litter boxes, make sure there is a covered litterbox secured to the floor inside the boat.

Q: What should I do to prepare when traveling on a cruise with my pet?

A: To prepare for traveling with your pet on a cruise:

  • For public boats, check with the boating company to find out their requirements and restrictions.
  • Most boating companies will require you to provide a regulation carrier and a leash for dogs.
  • You will also need a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (health certificate) and possibly a travel form, depending on the areas that you will be visiting.

Q: What are some other things to think about when traveling by boat?

A: Here are some other things you should think about:

  • When traveling by boat, your pet should have exercise before boarding and when you make stops.
  • When traveling to foreign countries, you will need an International Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (health certificate).
  • You may also need a permit and have to fill out a form. Information about pet passports to foreign countries can be found at Pet Travel
  • Some pets get motion sicknesses on boats. If your pet becomes motion sick in the car, it will likely be sick on a boat. Talk to your veterinarian about alternate traveling suggestions or medications.

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Traveling by Car

Q: What can I do to prepare my pet for traveling in a car?

A: If your pet does not ride well in a car, consider leaving your pet at home, with friends or family, or in a boarding facility.

  • If you don't often take your pet in the car, start with short trips to "fun" destinations (such as a dog-friendly park or play area) to help your pet get used to riding in a car.
  • If your pet gets car sick, talk to your veterinarian about alternate traveling suggestions or medications to keep them comfortable.

Q: What should I do to keep my pet safe and healthy?

A: To keep your pet safe and healthy:

  • Make frequent stops (about every 2-3 hours) to allow your pet to go to the bathroom and get some exercise.
  • Properly restrain your pet in the car to prevent injury to your pets, you and to other drivers.
  • Do not let your pet ride in the back of a truck. If your pet must ride in the truck bed, they should be confined in a protective kennel that is secured to the truck to prevent injury.
    » View the AVMA Policy
    » View the AVMA Backgrounder
  • Pets should not be allowed to ride with their heads outside the window. Dirt and other debris can enter their eyes, ears and nose and cause injury or infection.
  • Pets should not be allowed to ride on the driver's lap or near the driver's feet. Small pets should be confined in crates or in travel-safe dog beds, and larger pets should be appropriately restrained with harnesses attached to the car's seat belts.
  • Cats should be transported in carriers.
  • Providing a familiar blanket and/or safe toy can help make your pet more comfortable during the trip.
  • Pets in Cars
  • Pets in Vehicles

Traveling by Train or Bus

Q: Can my pet travel with me on a train or bus?

A: Most states restrict the travel of pets on trains or buses. Exceptions are made for guide or service dogs. Check with your carrier to find out if your pet can come with you and what rules and regulations apply.

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