Pets in Winter

Caring for pets in the winter can hold some unique challenges, according to local veterinarians and pet care providers. 

Dr. Theresa Konzel, veterinarian at Corry Companion Animal Hospital, 15 E. Columbus Ave., says each dog breed handles the cold temperatures differently. For example, she said  the cold is likely to be harder on short-haired breeds such as Dobermans and boxers versus long-haired breeds like huskies, Newfoundlands or Alaskan malamutes that are more equipped for the cold weather. 

"It really depends on coat length," Konzel said.

Konzel also mentioned a recent Pennsylvania state law stating that dogs cannot be tied outside for more than half an hour in the winter. She said she believes this is a good guideline to follow.

Ruth Thompson, founder and director of ANNA Shelter, 1555 E. 10th St., Erie, said instead of letting their dogs be outside for two hours like in the summertime, they are only out for about 10 minutes at a time in the winter.

"Enough time for them to do their business and then that's it," Thompson said.

ANNA Shelter has a branch in Corry, called the ANNA Wellness Center, located at 13199 Route 6. 

Konzel noted she sees a lot of cuts on pads underneath dogs' paws in the winter, and she says it comes from walking on ice. She recommends finding softer snow to walk on when possible.

"Ice can be as sharp as glass, and I have seen it cut through pads," she said.

At the shelter, Thompson says what they see the most of is frostbite from animals being left out in the cold for too long.

"If you're cold, they're cold," she said. "Any extreme [temperature] can be an issue."

In regard to illnesses, Konzel noted cats and dogs do not experience an equivalent to the human flu season, but that some viruses could potentially be transported between species.

"There are some viruses that do jump species," Konzel said. One of these is called "kennel cough," which in human form, translates to pertussis or "whooping cough." 

However, Konzel said transmission of a disease like this is not common.

Additionally, Konzel noted the mild winter has been strange in regard to flea cases. Usually, with temperatures below freezing, fleas are less common, but with more days reaching up to 50 degrees this year, she is noticing an increase in flea cases.

"If your [pet is] indoor/outdoor, there's a good chance you're going to end up with fleas, and I'm seeing that," Konzel said.

Konzel recommends pet owners use a flea prevention regimen that is backed by a licensed veterinarian, because this is the best way for pet owners to be confident in what they are giving their animals.

"We want you to be protected," Konzel said.

Konzel also suggests calories in a pet's diet be adjusted down to account for being less active during winter months. 

"We aren't the only ones that put on 10 pounds over Christmas," Konzel said. 

Thompson said at the shelter, they keep the animals' diets consistent throughout the year. 

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