Holidays tough time for pets, too

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— As winter sets in and you fall into the routine of life with snow, don't forget that one of the most cherished members of the family may not adjust to the cold as well as you.

There is a better chance that dogs and cats will get sick during winter and the holiday season.

In fact, it's more likely that an animal will pass away during the holidays, local veterinarian Sam Taliaferro said.

He estimated a 30 percent increase in the number of animals that his office, The Pet Kare Clinic, euthanizes over the holiday season.

"It's really a hard time for us," Taliaferro said.

He said it is a combination of factors that cause the increase, and usually they are the same factors that cause the pet owners to get sick or stressed out around the holidays.

Cold weather can affect animals just as much as it does their owners and sometimes even worse. Just like humans becoming more susceptible to colds when the temperature drops, animals' immune systems are weakened with when winter comes, too, Taliaferro said. That makes the pets more likely to catch a cold or diseases that could potentially be lethal especially for animals that don't have their shots, Animal Control officer Stacy Hayes said.

That's what was determined to be the cause behind a recent parvo outbreak at the Steamboat Springs Animal Shelter. Parvo is viral disease that prevents a dog's intestines from absorbing water and nutrients. Animals that survive parvo can transmit the disease through fecal matter up to a year after they have recovered. It can be prevented by the normal vaccinations.

Hayes put down 13 puppies and one adult dog the week of Thanksgiving because of the parvo outbreak, which usually comes on an annual basis in Steamboat Springs.

"We see more of it in the wintertime because the change in temperature stresses animals' bodies," Hayes said.

Snow and low temperatures also cause animals to stay inside more often. The result is pets usually don't get enough exercise during the winter, which can be hard on older animals, Taliaferro said.

An arthritic dog, for example, can get stiff and have trouble walking in the winter because they are not getting outside to exercise.

Seeing their pets in pain can tempt pet owners to make that difficult decision to have their animal euthanized, Taliaferro said.

Holiday stress also is a factor for animals.

Taliaferro explained how having a house full of strangers to the animals can cause some anxiety for the family pet. The result is medical conditions attributed to excitement or more potty accidents in the house.

The latter forces some owners to think it's time for the last trip to the vet, he said.

"It's a tough situation," Taliaferro said. "It's just a hard time of the year for dogs and cats."

To reach Doug Crowl call 871-4206 or e-mail dcrowl@amigo.net

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