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Winter Weather & Holiday Pet Tips

As we welcome the winter weather in the Northeast it is also time to take precautions against the cold temperatures and holiday hazards faced by our pets.

We are often asked “How cold is too cold?”, and the answer is of course, “It depends!”. Dogs can tolerate low temperatures better if they are a northern breed, have plenty of hair and body fat, and are accustomed to the cold. Even a lean short-haired dog will feel fine while running along on a cold weather hike, but once you stop to rest, that dog will get cold quite quickly compared to a Husky. A well-fitting coat (and booties if they will tolerate them) would help that dog stay warm. Dogs’ paw pads are designed to tolerate the cold ground but once your dog starts lifting up their paws, they are too cold! Bring them indoors! And be sure to wipe off your dogs’ feet with a damp towel or a baby wipe when they come in to remove any road salt which can cause irritation. Be sure to choose pet-safe ice melt products for your own walkways.

Remember that some of our favorite holiday treats are quite dangerous for dogs and cats. Alcoholic beverages and chocolate are obvious culprits. Don’t forget that coffee is also dangerous (those chocolate covered espresso beans carry a double risk). Yeast dough carries an unexpected danger – when the dough rises in a dog’s stomach, it expands (which is painful) and releases alcohol (which is toxic). Home-made play dough-type ornaments can contain very high amounts of salt which can be fatal if eaten by your pup.

Holiday plants are also a risk. Cats just love to nibble on flower arrangements. Certain lilies can cause kidney failure (Tiger, Asian, Japanese Show, Easter, Stargazer, and the Casa Blanca Lily are all toxic). Poinsettias, mistletoe, and holly can cause significant gastrointestinal upset. The biggest holiday plant is, of course, the Christmas tree. To prevent disaster, be sure to tether that tree to the wall if you have cats or a rambunctious dog.  Also please forego using tinsel on your tree if you have a cat. They can’t get enough of this sparkly string that looks an awful lot like a cat toy – and when swallowed it can get caught in the intestines and cause life-threatening damage without emergency surgery.

It is common to have houseguests for the holidays. Be sure all of your guests keep any medication (including over the counter pills like ibuprofen and vitamins) secured and out of reach. You may want to make your house smell delicious and festive with some simmering liquid potpourri. These potions can cause severe damage to the mouth, skin, and eyes so be sure to monitor them. Your pet can be exposed by directly licking from the pot or even spilling some and then grooming it off. The same monitoring rules apply to candles and Menorahs.

Winter can be a fun-filled time for you and your pet if you take a few precautions. 


Should you have any questions, comments or concerns, please don't hesitate to contact us by phone at 845-876-6008, or by e-mail at [email protected].

Thank you for choosing us to be part of your pet's healthcare team!

With warmest regards,
Your friends at Rhinebeck Animal Hospital

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