Cold weather can pose a serious threat to your pet’s health. An animal’s tolerance to cold weather varies based on their size, coat, fat stores, and health.
As the weather gets colder, time spent outside in the cold should be minimized. Older, arthritic pets may need help maneuvering on the snow and ice. Certain diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and kidney disease can make it harder for an animal to regulate their body temperature. Very young and older pets can also have trouble regulating their body temperature.
Before letting your pets outside, make sure they have a well-fitted collar with up to date tags, or a microchip, as tracking them in a snow storm can be difficult. Dogs and cats are susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia and should be kept inside when the weather temperatures drop below freezing. Signs of hypothermia include shivering, weakness, decreased movement, or looking for places to burrow for warmth. If you see these signs, you should bring your pet indoors quickly and consult your veterinarian.
After walks, wipe down paws and legs to prevent toxic exposure to deicers and salt. You should also check paws for cracks or bleeding. Sweaters, coats, and booties can be worn for protection. Animals should never be left in the car during the winter months.
Outdoor animals try to keep warm and often will look for heat sources as the temperatures drop. Cars are a common place strays and wildlife hide to keep warm. Check underneath the car, bang on the hood, and honk the horn before starting your engine. Inside of the house, pet proofing should be done to be sure it is safe. Electrical cords should be tucked away, space heaters should be kept in a safe place away from pets, and pet beds should be kept out of drafty areas.
If the pet has to stay outside during the winter, be sure they have a strong, sturdy, warm shelter to protect them against the elements such as wind, snow, and sleet. They must also have access to fresh, non-frozen, water at all times. Preparing a disaster kit for emergency situations, such as power outages and blizzards, stocked with at least 5 day of supplies is also a good idea. Your kit should include food, water, medication, and blankets.
If you have any questions about what is safe for your pets during the winter months, contact your Veterinarian.