Cold Weather Safety
With yet another “Polar Vortex” set to hit the east coast, it is important to review some tips to keep your furry friends safe in the cold.
Focus on preventative care:
Did you know that cold weather can worsen some conditions such as arthritis? Just like with people, cold, wet, weather can exacerbate the pain and stiffness associated with arthritic joints in dogs and cats. If you haven’t already done so, schedule your pet’s yearly wellness exam to ensure that he or she is as ready for the cold weather as possible. If you know your pet has arthritis, consider providing more warm places for them to relax in your home, such as pet-safe heated beds or blankets. Also consider adding more area rugs if your house has slick flooring (such as wood, tile or vinyl) so that your pets can maintain traction and avoid falls.
Know your pet:
Just like people, each pet has a different tolerance for cold weather. Factors such as age, hair coat, body fat stores, and medical conditions may make some pets more or less susceptible to the cold. Be aware of your pet’s tolerance for cold weather and adjust accordingly. Most pets will need shorter walks when it is extremely cold or snowy outside to reduce the risk of cold related injury. Short coated dogs may get colder faster but even long or thick coated dogs should be monitored closely for signs of chilling. Short-legged dogs may have bellies that contact the snowy ground and will become wet and cold very easily. Arthritic pets may have trouble with slick surfaces and may be prone to slipping or falling. Pets with medical conditions such as diabetes, thyroid or adrenal imbalances may have trouble regulating their body temperature and be more susceptible to problems related to temperature extremes. When in doubt, on extremely cold days, it is better to go on short walks and limit outside time for all our pets!
Keep pets inside:
Cats and dogs should be kept inside during cold weather. It is a common belief that cats and dogs are more resistant to cold than humans because of their fur but this is untrue. Like people, cats and dogs can suffer from hypothermia and frostbite. No pet should be kept outside during sub-freezing temperatures. If you see a pet that is outside or improperly sheltered during extremely cold weather, contact your local animal control officer to report the situation.
We don’t recommend keeping pets outside for long periods of time but if you are unable to keep your pet inside during cold weather make sure you are providing adequate shelter from the cold. The floor of the shelter should be off of the ground and the door to the shelter should be protected from the wind. Bedding should be thick, dry and changed routinely. Fresh, non-frozen water should be available at all times. Extra food may be needed to provide for increased calorie demand in the cold weather. If you cannot provide the appropriate shelter for your pet, please contact animal control or the county shelter for help-there are resources available for pets in need.
Make some noise:
A warm engine is an appealing place for outside and feral cats to sleep, but it can be a deadly decision. On cold days, take a minute to check under your car or bang on the hood before starting it to avoid catastrophe for an unsuspecting feline.
Check your pet’s feet:
Pets, especially dogs, can suffer paw injuries from walking on cold or icy ground. If your dog suddenly holds up a paw, or refuses to continue walking, check his or her paws for signs of trauma. Ice or snow can also accumulate between the toes making it difficult for your pet to walk. Consider booties to protect your dog’s feet on walks. Also, once you return home, it is a good idea to wipe off your dog’s paws to remove any salt or de-icing solutions that he or she may have come in contact with. These products can be harmful if ingested (during licking) and can sometimes irritate the skin.
Use only pet safe anti-freeze in your car and don’t allow your pet to roam freely. Especially in the winter, pets can easily come in contact with anti-freeze, a potentially deadly substance when ingested. Anti-freeze is sweet smelling and will attract pets. When ingested, even in small amounts, it can cause irreversible kidney failure. Outdoor cats are particularly susceptible because they often seek shelter from the cold in garages and tool sheds where anti-freeze is stored.