As the weather gets colder, we seek out ways to keep ourselves warm – like wearing more clothing and turning up our heat. But what do our pets do? Dogs and cats, both indoor and outdoor, will also look for ways to stay warm and cozy. Sometimes, they will inadvertently get themselves into a dangerous situation in an attempt to warm up.
• Pets with indoor access may choose to sit on a heat vent, curl up next to a fireplace, or snuggle under the blankets. Occasionally, a cat or small dog may try another heat source – a clothes dryer. Pets are quick to pick up on the source of warm laundry and can feel the warmth radiating from the machine itself. Every year, many pets are seriously injured or even die after accidentally getting locked in a dryer that then begins to heat and spin. The heat and tumbling action of a dryer is much too strong and fast for a pet to overcome, and left inside, it will result in a fatality.
• Cats are particularly prone to dryer-related accidents because of their attraction to small spaces to hide, elevated perches and their natural curiosity. To keep your pet safe this fall and winter, we suggest the following:
1. Educate the members of your household that may use the dryer. Awareness is often enough to catch a hiding pet in a dryer before it gets started.
2. Keep access to the dryer limited to when clothes are being transferred in and out of the dryer. Otherwise, keep the door latched closed.
3. Before each cycle, feel around inside the dryer to make sure Fluffy didn’t sneak inside when you weren’t looking.
4. Provide accessible alternatives for your cat or dog to warm up, such as extra blankets.
5. Never encourage a pet to get in a dryer, even if you are supervising. Your pet will think it is a suitable place to go and may become extremely interested in exploring it during other times as well.
If your pet does accidentally spend ANY amount of time inside a dryer, call your veterinarian and take him or her to be evaluated immediately. Injuries can include head trauma/concussions, hyperthermia, organ trauma, burns, and fractures. Even if your pet seems fine, a veterinarian will be able to detect subtle signs of injury and provide the care your pet needs. As is true with most injuries and illnesses, early intervention often means cheaper and more effective treatment.