Ensuring a happy, healthy winter for your pets

MARQUETTE TOWNSHIP — Most Upper Peninsula residents are far too familiar with how winter weather affects our bodies, but that same weather can have similar effects on dogs and cats.

In addition to providing plenty of shelter, food, and water for outdoor pets during the winter months, pet owners are encouraged to be observant of their furry friends to prevent cold-induced injuries.

“Assessing your animals daily, if they’re outdoor animals, is very important, looking for things like frostbite,” said Julie Vezzetti, a veterinarian at the Animal Medical Center of Marquette. “The tips of the ears are one of the most common places that they can get frostbite, and they can actually lose tissue. So, that tissue can die and fall off and can become kind of a severe situation for these animals. The other place to look for is the tips of the tail, and looking at the paws of the animals and making sure that they’re not getting red or irritated.”

Even pets that spend most of their time indoors should have their paws checked after going outside to prevent irritation or potential frostbite from snow and ice caught between their toes. The added protection of sweaters or other clothing can be beneficial — not to mention fashionable — for some dogs.

“You kind of have to see how your dog does,” Vezzetti added. “Is your dog coming from a southern state and now this is your first winter? Welcome to the U.P. They may need to have an extra layer on them just like you and me. If your dog is used to being outdoors and they seem comfortable without an extra layer, that’s perfectly fine as well, as long as you’re paying attention to the fact that they may want to come in if they’re shivering, if they’re going to the door very quickly.”

Owners are also reminded to always keep their pets away from antifreeze, as it’s a deadly poison.