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KELTON: Caring for furry friends as temperatures drop

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Winter can be a beautiful time of year here in Murfreesboro. Frosty mornings with the frozen dew on the grass and trees provide a striking backdrop to our day.

The occasional snow sends the kids in frenzy, hoping that school will be canceled.

One of my favorite parts of wintertime is walking out in a snow-covered field and experiencing the absolute silence.

But what about your pets?

Do you think they appreciate the cold weather like we do?

For them, it can be all about survival.

Cold temperatures are generally not their friend. What can you do to help them through this time of year?

Keep your pets inside as much as you can when the mercury drops. If you have to take them out, stay outside with them. When you’re cold enough to go inside, they probably are too.

If you absolutely must leave them outside for a significant length of time, make sure they have a warm, solid shelter against the wind, thick bedding (straw is a great insulator that they can snuggle down in), and plenty of unfrozen water.

During times of snow, keep a close eye on your pets if they like to wander outside.

Dogs can lose their scent and can easily become lost. More dogs are lost during the winter than during any other season, so make sure yours always wear ID tags.

Some pet breeds are naturally are more accustomed to the cold weather than others.

Huskies, for instance, have thick fur to protect and keep them warm. Short-haired breeds, such as Dachshunds, are not as blessed.

Similar to humans, a pet’s age and health will dictate how well they can tolerate colder temperatures. Conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, and hormonal imbalances can compromise their ability to regulate their body heat.

Cats can also be very vulnerable during cold weather.

As ingenious as they are, they will find anywhere that is warm to curl up in. This includes car engines.

If you have outside cats, keep this in mind on those cold mornings before you start your vehicle.

Check underneath the car and make loud noises to keep them safe from hurting themselves.

Products often used during this time of year, such as antifreeze and ice melt, can be hazardous to their health if ingested. In recent years companies have promoted safer, more pet friendly products that reduce the risk to your pet.

But you should still wipe off their paws before they come inside and clean up any chemical spills that could be hazardous.

Food and water are key components to pet health, in addition to shelter. Providing a clean, unfrozen source of water and fresh supply of food are critical.

Pets, especially if kept outside, need additional nutrition to keep them warm as they will typically burn through more calories if they are active. But, if their activity level is reduced and they are mainly inside, keep an eye on their weight and adjust accordingly.

Often I talk with pet owners to discuss how much food they need to be feeding their pet.

My suggestion is to start off with the recommended amount on the bag based on the pet’s weight then adjust accordingly based on how they look.

Pets are like humans – no one size fits all.

Every dog and cat has different metabolism rates and it is ultimately up to us to make the decision for them.

You may wish to consult with your veterinarian or another qualified professional about the right winter food portions for your pet.

Our furry friends are an extension of our family – we all want the best for them and following some common sense rules will help them through this rough season.

Next time we will discuss tips to keep your landscape in tip-top shape this winter. Until then, stay warm.
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Jason Kelton, Voices
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