Pet Health Hospital

Pets In The Cold

Now that is is getting colder outside, we cannot stress enough to bring your pets inside in order to prevent frostbite and potentially even death.  Many people believe that because pets have fur they are not affected by cold the way humans are.  Nothing is further from the truth, and animals are just as cold as you are out there when temperatures begin to dip.

Here are some useful tips to keep your pet warm and safe this winter:

  • Take your pet to the veterinarian for a winter check up.  A qualified animal expert will be able to see if there are potentially any adverse medical conditions that could put your pet at risk when temperatures begin to go down.
  • Keep your pets inside your home as much as possible when the temperatures go down.  If they must go outside, it is a good idea for you to be with them at all times.  Once you begin to notice that you are feeling cold, your pet is feeling it too.  If there is no way around your pet being outside for a long period of time, make sure they have a warm and solid shelter from the elements.  Additionally, make sure they have plenty of warm bedding and non-frozen water.  Keeping water for pets in metal dishes presents an added danger in the winter as a pet’s tongue may stick to the metal when temperatures are low.  It is also a good idea to leave a hot water bottle outside , wrapped in a towel to prevent burning your pet’s skin.
  • Some animals are more suited than others to remain outside longer in the winter than others.  Long haired breeds fair better in colder temperatures, like Huskies and other “sled-type” dogs.  They will obviously do better outside than a short haired breed like a Chihuahua.  Animals with longer legs will fair better than animals with short legs in the snow, as less of their body comes in contact with it.  Medical conditions like diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease and hormonal imbalances will effect the ability of your pet’s body to regulate heat, so if your pet is affected by any of these conditions it is a good idea to keep them inside.  Older animals will be less able to deal with cold than younger animals as well, although no matter how young or healthy the animal is, it cannot spend unlimited amounts of time outside in the freezing cold.
  • Cats attempt to keep warm by curling up against warm things, like car engines and tires.  Before you turn your car on or move it, always tap on the hood and honk the horn to make sure a cat has not gone to sleep inside the engine or behind the tires.
  • If you live around frozen water, do not let your dog off the leash around it.  Dogs do not understand ice, and can easily fall through and become trapped and drown.
  • Always check your furnace for carbon monoxide leaks, and have a carbon monoxide monitor on at all times inside areas of your home that are heated, both for your pet’s safety and your own.  Because pet’s generally spend more time in your home than you do, they are more easily effected by these types of leaks as they are exposed for longer periods of time.  Signs that there may be carbon monoxide in your home range from headaches to fatigue.
  • Always wipe your dog or cat’s feet off when they come inside in the winter, as they will many times get rock salt, ice and chemicals in the pads of their feet.  These types of things irritate the pads and cause discomfort, which will many times lead to the animal licking their feet.  Animals that ingest salt from outside can cause inflammation of their digestive tract.
  • Cats will generally attempt to find shelter nearly anywhere that they can in the winter.  Many times they will become trapped in dumpsters and under houses as they burrow in looking for shelter.  Keep an eye on your cat whenever they are outside.
  • Make sure that your pets always have unfrozen water, because if they cannot find liquid to drink they will many times drink anything available, including poisons, anti-freeze, polluted water from gutters and chemicals.
  • Older and arthritic pets fair poorly when temperatures drop.  Their joints become very stiff and cause them great pain when walking or jumping.  Keep them as warm as possible by always providing a warm bed and blanket, and carry them as much as possible when they are cold.
  • Use pet sweaters and booties to keep your pet warm.  Most heat is lost from pets through their feet, ears and respiratory tract.  Although it will not prevent them from being cold if left outside too long, it will help a little in assisting the animal to stay warm.
  • Watch for frostbite and hypothermia in your animals.  Frostbite is the condition when the body attempts to keep the internal organs warm by pulling blood away from the extremities, causing a lack of blood flow to the area.  Animals paws, tail and ears actually can get cold enough to form ice crystals on them.  Serious damage may not be obvious for days after the incident, and frostbite can happen very quickly.  If you suspect your pet may have frostbite, immediately soak their extremities in warm water for about twenty minutes to restore circulation.  DO NOT RUB THE DAMAGED TISSUE as ice crystals can do additional damage if you do.  After soaking, get you pet wrapped in a warm blanket and get to the veterinarian immediately.
  • Hypothermia is the inability of the body to keep the internal organs warm enough to stay alive.  The onset of hypothermia is the muscles beginning to stiffen and the heart slowing down.  This will continue until death sets in if it is not immediately treated by a veterinarian.  If you suspect that your pet has been outside too long and hypothermia is setting in, wrap your pet in a blanket and get to a veterinarian as soon as possible.  Hypothermia kills pets quickly, so time is of the essence.

Winter is beautiful and it is certainly fun to watch your pets frolic in the snow, but common sense will tell you that their bodies are very much like yours in that they are affected by the cold temperatures just like you are.  The cardinal rule is KEEP YOUR PETS WARM this year by keeping them in your home as much as possible.