Seasonal Pet Care Tips and Safety

TR Staff
Staff Writer

By Donovan Williams and Ellie Boese
Winter is just around the corner for everyone in North Dakota, a season in which it’s especially important to consider how to care for pets in the new conditions, as well as those in need of homes or who might not be in the best of care.
Sheryl Solberg, President of Sheyenne Valley Friends of Animals, knows the responsibilities of owning a pet well.
"Adopting a pet is a long-term commitment in many ways. There are financial parts: can you afford food, veterinary care, and housing?” she said. “You also have to consider how often you are home, and how that works out with a pet outside or inside." Solberg went on to talk about cases in which pet-owners may find themselves unable to care for or keep their animal(s), like if living situations change or new circumstances arrive that had not posed a problem before. "It's important to have a plan,” she said.
With winter on its way, the holiday season approaches as well, creating unique situations as far as pet-ownership is concerned. When people consider adopting or purchasing a pet (by the way, as Solberg says, adopt, don’t shop), they have to consider all that caring for a pet requires. Some might think that to give pets as gifts is a great idea, something truly meaningful rather than the same run-of-the-mill gifts. But it could be a negative surprise, in circumstances that find the recipient unprepared or unable to handle it. Sometimes that leads to animals being abandoned for financial reasons; the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals says that the first year of owning a dog costs up to $1,300.
It might be that the person lives in an environment that is hazardous to the pets, or that she/he or someone in the household has an allergy to animals––three in ten people in the US, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America says. It really isn't safe to assume that someone who has expressed wanting a pet can really provide a home for it.
Another thing to consider is a pet’s need to have time to adjust to new environments. If a person leaves for a long vacation or is gone frequently from home shortly after a pet enters their lives, it could leave an animal confused and unable to bond healthily with the individual or family.
The population of stray animals is increasing rapidly, especially when pets are being left behind. The problem is exacerbated by the number of pets left un-spayed/neutered, and purchasing animals instead of adopting.
“We have to make sure we spay and neuter pets. Then we don't have extra dogs and cats suffering in the cold when they don't have a home."
As far as pets fare in winter weather, the new season calls pet-owners to pay closer attention to animals’ changing needs. With dropping temperatures, Solberg said, it’s vitally important not to leave them outside for long periods of time. “Even a couple days ago, it wasn't below freezing out but it was raining, and if a pet’s coat gets wet and it's out there in that wind and temperature, hypothermia can set in really quickly." Being outside in frigid temperatures can also quickly cause frostbite to ears, paws, and noses. Other hazards arise in the winter that animals may be unable to recognize as dangerous. People are more likely in the colder temperatures to use rodenticides to keep mice and other rodents out of homes, and those products can be deadly for pets who ingest them. Vehicles also require antifreeze in North Dakota winters, and the smell and taste mask the presence of highly toxic chemicals, making it enticing for animals to lick. De-icer on sidewalks are irritants if they come in contact with an animal’s paws, so owners should either keep paws protected with booties or rinse a dog’s paws after coming home from walks. Something pet owners may not know is that animals require more hydration in the winter months to keep their bodies warm, so keep that water dish extra full.
Pet owners are advised to pay close attention to their pets as we come closer to winter, making sure your furry friends are well taken care of and safe. For further information call the Sheyenne Valley Friends of Animals at 701-840-5047.