As temperatures begin to drop this winter, it’s important to take your pets safety into consideration. Many people believe that since their pet has a fur coat they are able to withstand the cold better than humans. This is not the case. Like us, animals are accustomed to the warmth of the indoors and the cold weather can be as hard on them as it is on people.
Cold tolerance can vary from pet to pet based on their coat, body fat stores, activity level and health. Long-haired or thick-coated dogs tend to be more cold-tolerant, but are still at risk in cold weather. Short-haired pets feel the cold faster because they have less protection. If your dog has a short coat or seems bothered by the cold weather, consider a coat or sweater to provide added warmth.
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. Pets that are young, old, ill or thin are particularly susceptible to cold environments. The cold can be especially hard on the joints of older animals that become stiff and tender.
Therefore, shortening walks in very cold weather may be beneficial.
Pets that are outdoors during extreme cold snaps are at risk for frostbite and hypothermia. Exposed skin on noses, ears and paw pads can quickly freeze and suffer permanent damage. Longer-haired and thick-coated dog breeds, such as huskies and other dogs bred for colder climates, are more tolerant of cold weather; but no pet should be left outside for long periods of time in below-freezing weather.
If you are unable to keep your pet inside during cold weather, provide them with a warm shelter and make sure to provide unlimited access to fresh, non-frozen water. The floor of the shelter should be off of the ground and the bedding should be thick to provide a warm, dry environment. Space heaters, heat lamps and heating pads should be avoided because of the risk of burns or fire. Outdoor pets will require more calories in the winter to generate enough body heat to keep them warm.
A warm vehicle engine can be an appealing heat source for outdoor cats. To avoid injuring any hidden animals, bang on your car’s hood to scare them away before starting your engine.
Chemicals such as antifreeze and road salt pose major threats to pets. Clean up any antifreeze spills quickly. Ethylene glycol, the main ingredient in antifreeze, has an appealing sweet smell and taste to pets. But even small amounts ingested of this highly poisonous substance can be fatal if not treated immediately.
Deicing products like rock salt can irritate pet’s paw pads. Be sure to rinse and dry your pet’s feet after being outside. Pet stores often carry pet-safe ice melts that do the job and won’t harm your pets.
The best way to keep your pets safe and happy this winter season is to keep them with you, indoors.
– Dr. Michelle Mayers, Hillcrest Animal Hospital♦