How to keep your four-legged family members warm and safe this winter

(Wyoming) - Even though it has been warm this week in Sheridan, temperatures are low in the mountains, and will likely drop before the winter is over. We know how to keep ourselves warm and safe during the wintertime, but how do we protect our furry family members? Dally sister-site Buckrail caught up with Dr. Dan Forman, DVM (Doctor of Veterinary Medicine), at Spring Creek Animal Hospital in Jackson to get some tips on how to care for your pets in the winter. *How Cold is Too Cold?* The answer is it depends, according to Dr. Forman. It depends on the type of animal, the type of fur they have and how they have been acclimated to the winter. "The level of previous climatization plays a huge role," he said. "If you have a dog that spends most of his or her time outdoors than that dog will likely tolerate the cold better than a dog that is used to being in a 72 degree household environment." Temperatures dipped to -7 in Jackson recently, and Dr. Forman said that it isn't tenable for any animal to be outside without proper shelter. He explains that a proper shelter should be well insulated and have a safe heat source. "The key is to make sure that the heat source doesn't cause it's own issues with either an electrical fire hazard, overheating or burns," he added. Dr. Forman recommends taking your pet outside for short amounts of time and slowly increasing that time to get them acclimated to the cold. "The dogs do need to get used to going out to do their business, get fresh air, get a little mental stimulation and get some exercise," he said. *Protect their Paws* According to Dr. Forman, there are several ways to protect your pets paws on the snow and ice. First, there are booties that you can purchase that are made by several reputable companies. He does recommend that you do not skimp on the price of booties because poorly made products can cause sores. "Bring your dog with you to the pet store to have them fitted for the booties there, don't just measure the feet and buy a pair," he said. "And then have the dog walk around in them in the pet store if the store allows it." He also recommends that you have your dog initially wear the booties around the house to get used to them. Only do this for short amounts of time, because the dog could get overheated. Another way to protect your pet is to use a product called Musher's Secret to prevent ice balls from forming on their paws. Dr. Forman said an old trick is to use non-stick Pam spray on the dog's feet, in-between their paws and very lightly on the bottom of their feet to prevent ice balls. "If a dog gets an ice ball in his paws it can be really really painful," he said. "It can be difficult to remove outside and then causes a wet mess inside." *Watch for Frostbite and Hypothermia* Just like people, pets can get frostbite and hypothermia. "We typically see frostbite on the ear tips, because that is where there is less circulation," said Dr. Forman. "We also see it on the tips of the tail or the nose, but that isn't as common as the tips of the ear." Specifically, upright ears on cats and dogs are more susceptible to frostbite. There are several stages of frostbite. In the first stages, you will see redness and puffiness, hypersensitivity to touch, your pet shying away from being touched on the head and irritability. He also recommends that you look for discoloration. Some of the other ways to tell if your pets are having difficulty with the cold are: - Hop scotching in the cold (moving their feet up and down quickly) - If they become more huddled - If they are shivering - Acting uncomfortable - Acting more withdrawn Dr. Forman often sees animals lose tips of their ears and tips of their tails due to frostbite. *Don't Forget About Dehydration and Sunburn in the Winter* "When we are outside, especially in the cold we tend to forget that we are losing a lot of moisture from our bodies," said Dr. Forman. "Dehydration is a really big issue." He recommends keeping a heated bowl outside to promote water consumption for his dogs before and after winter walks. "We do see a lot of sunburns in dogs. Especially on the nose and on the eyelids," he said. He doesn't recommend sunscreen, because dogs often lick it right off, but to slowly acclimate the pets to sunny days, just like you will acclimate them to the cold. Finally, Dr. Forman recommends that if you think something is wrong with your furry friend, just call your vet. "When in doubt, call your vet. I think that is the most important thing," said Dr. Forman. "Animal hospitals in general are an extremely invaluable resource for the pet owner. Most hospitals are more than willing to help people out over the phone." "You as a pet owner know your family members the best," he added. *Feature Photo: h/t Paul Morris / Pitchengine Communities* #dally #news