Cold Weather Tips for Pets

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Many dog owners incorrectly believe that because their pets have a coat of fur, they can tolerate the cold better than humans.

 

• Bring pets inside or provide adequate shelter.

If it’s too cold for you, it’s probably too cold for your pet. If you notice your dog whining, shivering or appearing anxious, or he stops playing and seems to be looking for places to burrow, then it’s time to bring him in. If left outdoor, pets can freeze, become disoriented, lost, injured or killed. Even dogs who enjoy the snow can get frostbite or hypothermia. If dogs are left outside, they should have a draft-free shelter large enough to stand and turn around in, yet small enough to retain body heat. Use a layer of straw or other dry bedding material to help insulate them against the cold. Make sure the entrance to the shelter faces away from the direction of incoming wind and snow.

 

• Not all pets are created equal.

Just like people, pets’ cold tolerance can vary from pet to pet based on their coat, body fat, activity level, and health. If your dog is sensitive to the cold due to age, illness or breed type, take him outdoors only long enough to relieve himself. Longer-haired and thick-coated dog breeds may be more tolerant of cold weather; but no pet should be left outside for long periods of time in below-freezing weather.

 

• Grooming changes.

Bathe your pets as little as possible and be sure to dry them thoroughly. Avoid shaving pets, especially double-coated dogs. Brush regularly, trim fur around foot pads, and moisturize dry, cracked skin and pads. Provide short-haired pets with outer clothing for warmth and protection.

 

• Keep warm by burning extra calories.

Be attentive to your dog’s activity level and adjust his calories accordingly.

 

• Outdoor cats and cars don’t mix.

Check underneath your car, bang on the hood, and honk the horn before starting the engine to encourage felines seeking shelter to leave and avoid severe injury.

 

• Be aware of hidden dangers.

Antifreeze is a lethal poison for dogs and cats. Be sure to thoroughly clean up any spills from your vehicle. Consider using products that contain propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol. After each walk, wash and dry your pet’s feet and stomach to remove ice, salt, and chemicals which can irritate and burn their skin.

 

Call your veterinarian if you suspect your pet has ingested poison or shows any signs of hypothermia such as impaired mental function, muscle stiffness, lethargy, fixed and dilated pupils, or changes in heart rate and breathing.

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