Cold weather poses a challenge to the safety and health of your pets. How should a pet owner protect against cold weather risks? We’ve collected five top tips to share with you. Follow these suggestions and your pet will be a healthy and happy camper in the winter season to come.
1. Bundle Pets in Warm Clothes
Bundling your dog up in clothes when you go out for a walk helps regulate their body temperature in the cold. This is particularly important if you have a short-haired breed. Your pet’s fur protects them from the elements, but not all pets’ coats are equally-equipped for extreme winter weather. When shopping for a dog jacket, look for one with a high collar or turtleneck that covers under the belly and to the base of the tail.
2. Keep Their Paws Clean
When your pet comes inside, wipe their paws thoroughly with a damp cloth to remove any ice, salt, caked mud, or chemicals (such as ice melt) they may have tracked in with them. If your pet licks their paws, salt and chemicals could cause issues such as irritation to the skin, paws, and gastrointestinal tract. If you’re concerned about your dog’s paws, a good option is to wrap their feet in booties when you take them outside for a walk.
3. Adjust Your Pet’s Diet
Winter weather may require dietary changes to keep your pet’s nutritional needs met. If your pet spends most of their time outside, they will burn more calories than normal trying to regulate their body temperature. In this case, you should feed your pet more, especially foods high in protein which keeps their fur thick and healthy.
On the other hand, if your pet spends more time indoors during the winter, they will burn less calories, and you should feed them less. Keep an eye on their food supplies. Inclement weather often causes water bowls or food to freeze.
4. Keep Your Pet’s Environment Safe and Warm
Establishing a safe and warm space for your pet during the winter is key to keeping them happy and healthy. Here are a few tips:
Put outdoor pets in the house or garage during severe weather, especially at night.
Make sure they have a warm place to sleep off the floor and away from drafts. Good examples are a dog or cat bed with a warm blanket or pillow in it.
Avoid space heaters because they can cause CO2 poisoning, thermal injuries, or even accidental fires.
Before you drive off, check the space under the hood of your car. Cats like to hide there because it is warm, but the fan belt could severely injure them. Knock heavily on the hood to give them a warning.
Don’t leave your pet alone in the car, which can act like a refrigerator in cold weather, holding lower temperatures than outside.
Watch for antifreeze spills. This sweet-tasting liquid can be fatal to pets with one lick. Opt for using animal-friendly products that contain propylene glycol instead of the traditional ethylene glycol. Immediately call your local veterinarian if you suspect your pet has ingested antifreeze.
5. Watch for Signs of Frostbite or Hypothermia
Catching the early warning signs of frostbite or hypothermia is key to limiting its effects. Short walks with your pet are generally safe, but if you’re spending significant time outside in the snow (perhaps running or cross-country skiing), be sure to check them regularly.
Occurs when ice crystals form on the peripheral tissues (ears, prepuce, vulva, tail tip, toes). Warning signs include redness, coolness to touch, swelling, or eventual sloughing of the peripheral tissue.
Occurs after prolonged exposure to severe cold. Warning signs include weak pulse, dilated pupils, lowered heart rate, intense shivering, pale or blue mucous membranes, body temperature below 95-degrees, stupor and unconsciousness.
Follow these tips to keep your pets safe from severe cold weather this winter. Remember to monitor their environment for the specific risks mentioned above. Always use your best judgment when bringing your pets outside, and don’t hesitate to call Diamond Veterinary Hospital with any questions, or in case of an emergency.