Are you aware that cold weather can pose serious threats to your pets’ health? Cold weather brings about dangerous scenarios and may worsen medical conditions. Your pet should be examined by a veterinarian at least once a year, and it’s as good a time as any to get a checkup to make sure they are as healthy as possible for cold weather.
Is there a blizzard on the forecast? Make sure to familiarize yourself with the rules of wintertime pet safety before the chill truly sets in.
Know Their Limits
Pets’ cold tolerance can vary from pet to pet based on their coat, body fat stores, activity level, and health. Adjust accordingly to their level of cold weather tolerance. Some dog breeds, such as huskies, love the cold and can spend hours in the snow with no problems whatsoever. Smaller dogs with shorter coats, on the other hand, may need sweaters, booties, or just more time indoors than out.
Arthritic and elderly pets may have more difficulty walking in the cold. Pets with diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, or hormonal imbalances may have a harder time regulating their body temperature, and may be more susceptible to problems from temperature extremes. The same goes for very young and very old pets. For help determining your pet’s temperature limits, consult your veterinarian. Don’t assume!
Most cats and dogs should be kept inside during cold weather. It’s a common misconception that they’re more resistant than people to cold weather because of their fur. However, they are susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia and should be kept inside.
If you’re unable to keep them inside, provide a warm, solid shelter against wind. Make sure they have unlimited access to fresh, non-frozen water. The floor of the shelter should be off of the ground and the bedding should be thick and dry. Space heaters and heat lamps should be avoided because of the risk of burns or fire. Heated pet mats should also be used with caution, since they’re still capable of causing burns.
Check the Paws
Check paws frequently for signs of cold-weather injury or damage, such as cracked paw pads or bleeding. During a walk, a sudden lameness may be due to an injury or may be due to ice accumulation between toes. Clipping the hair between your dog’s toes can help.
During walks, paws, legs and bellies may pick up deicers, antifreeze, or other chemicals that could be toxic. When you get back inside, wipe down to remove these chemicals and reduce the risk that your dog will be poisoned after licking them. Consider using pet-safe de-icers on your property to protect your pets and the others in your neighborhood. Or, purchase your pet a pair of booties to wear during walks. They will protect their paws from ice and salt, and will look very stylish!
Make Sure They Have a Collar & Chip
Many pets become lost in winter because snow and ice can hide recognizable scents that might normally help your pet find their way back home. Make sure your pet has a well-fitting collar with up-to-date identification and contact information. A microchip is a more permanent means of identification, but it’s critical that you keep the registration up to date.
If your pet is whining, shivering, seems anxious, slows down or stops moving, seems weak, or starts looking for warm places to burrow, get them back inside quickly because they are showing signs of hypothermia. Frostbite is harder to detect, and may not be fully recognized until a few days after the damage is done. If you suspect your pet has hypothermia or frostbite, consult your veterinarian immediately.
Cold weather also brings the risks of severe winter weather, blizzards and power outages. Prepare a disaster/emergency kit, and include your pet in your plans.