Cold weather affects pets as well as humans. Some pets are better suited for cold weather than others. There is a common (and false) belief that dogs “will do just fine” if left outside. This is not true; professionals, including veterinarians and veterinary assistant, will tell you that all pets need proper shelter and protection from the cold. Pets should not be left outside for long periods of time in freezing weather as they can suffer hypothermia and frostbite just like humans, especially the young or very old.
A designated area inside is best, but if that is not possible, an adequate shelter that is insulated with blankets or straw and that is protected from wind, snow, rain, and cold will help retain your dog’s body heat. Also, don’t forget to provide plenty of fresh water as licking ice or snow will not provide enough fluids. Using a heated water dish will keep the water from freezing. Consult pet professionals such as a veterinary assistant school graduate or pet care specialist at your local pet supply store about finding heated water dishes.
The use of heat lamps, space heaters, or other electrical devices is not recommended as they may not only burn your pet but may also create a fire hazard. Pet product suppliers have heated mats for pets to sleep on. A recovering pet will generally be placed on such a mat in a veterinary facility post-surgery. These mats could also be placed under a dog house. Be sure to read all manufacturers’ directions carefully to avoid misuse or injury to your pet. Also, note that outdoor pets require more food than normal for energy and for maintaining body heat. Veterinary assistant or your vet technician can provide guidelines regarding feeding during cold weather seasons.
Large chunks of ice can get between your dog’s or cat’s foot pads, causing discomfort. Clipping the hair between the pads will help in keeping such ice from forming. Some dogs will tolerate dog boots which offer protection when walking in snowy areas or on icy sidewalks. Your groomer or a vet assistant can help you in trimming the fur between your dog’s or cat’s toes.
Salt and Chemical De-Icers
De-icers can cause chapped, dry, and painful paws, and afflicted pets will lick their paws. This could cause stomach irritation and vomiting. Be sure to wash your pet’s feet with warm water after a walk on icy ground.
Antifreeze is sweet-tasting, and pets are prone to lap up spills. Clean up any antifreeze spills immediately. If it has ingested antifreeze, the pet must be taken to a veterinary clinic to be assessed and treated by a veterinarian immediately.
The warm engine of a car is a tempting area for cats to curl up and sleep during cold winter nights. Before starting your vehicle, honk the horn or bang the hood to frighten off any sleeping animals.
Senior pets with arthritis have a more difficult time in the winter cold. Be cautious of icy walks, provide warm and soft bedding, and handle pets gently. Should you notice that your arthritic pet is having trouble getting around, contact your veterinarian and have your veterinarian and his/her veterinary assistant or technician examine your pet.
Finally, be sure to have plenty of supplies in case the roads become unsafe.
• Pet food
• Fresh water
• Warm blankets
• Any medication that the pet takes on a daily basis
Have a happy, safe, and warm winter with your pets!