Baby, It’s Cold Outside: Protect Your Pet from Winter Weather

December 22, 2016

Baby, It's Cold Outside: Protect Your Pet from Winter WeatherOur cats and dogs may have lovely, furry coats, but freezing winter weather is just as dangerous to them as to humans. Animals are susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia, especially through their paws. For cats, the best approach is to keep them indoors. For dogs, follow these tips during walks and outdoor adventures:

  • Baby, It's Cold Outside: Protect Your Pet from Winter WeatherAfter each trip outside, check your dog’s paws for ice build-up between their toes.  To reduce this ice, you may want to clip the hair between your dog’s toes. Also, be on the lookout for cracked or bleeding paw pads.
  • For dogs with short coats, try a sweater or dog coat. Have more than one, so you can put on a dry one each time you go outside.
  • During walks, your dog may come into contact with irritants or toxins like de-icing fluid or antifreeze. When you return from your walk, wipe down your dog’s paws and belly to keep them from licking it off and being poisoned.
  • Don’t let your dog walk on frozen lakes or ponds. If they fall through, it’s very dangerous!

Finally, the AVMA has great advice for personalizing your winter activities based on your pet’s cold tolerance:

“Just like people, pets’ cold tolerance can vary from pet to pet based on their coat, body fat stores, activity level, and health. Be aware of your pet’s tolerance for cold weather, and adjust accordingly. You will probably need to shorten your dog’s walks in very cold weather to protect you both from weather-associated health risks. Arthritic and elderly pets may have more difficulty walking on snow and ice and may be more prone to slipping and falling. Long-haired or thick-coated dogs tend to be more cold-tolerant, but are still at risk in cold weather. Short-haired pets feel the cold faster because they have less protection, and short-legged pets may become cold faster because their bellies and bodies are more likely to come into contact with snow-covered ground. Pets with diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, or hormonal imbalances (such as Cushing’s disease) may have a harder time regulating their body temperature, and may be more susceptible to problems from temperature extremes. The same goes for very young and very old pets. If you need help determining your pet’s temperature limits, consult your veterinarian.”

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