Cold Weather Tips for Pets

Written By: VetriScience

Cat-in-snowAs a winter storm reaches much of the eastern United States, affecting more than 90 million people, many people are scrambling to prepare for blizzard-like conditions. Weather Channel meteorologist, Tom Moore, warned viewers about the sub-zero temperatures, stating, "People that are vulnerable are really going to be hurting."

Pets are also vulnerable in this type of weather. While some people think dogs and cats have enough fur to protect them, it's just as important for pet owners to be extra cautious about their pets during extremely cold temperatures. This week's post from VetriScience® offers some quick tips for keeping your pet safe and healthy when the temperatures drop below zero.

1. Stay Inside

Your pets are just as susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia as you are, especially paws, ears, and other extremities. Keep outdoor cats inside as much as possible. Supply them with an extra litter box, and lock any pet doors that lead to the outside. Dogs have to go outside to use the bathroom, so try to limit walks with them to a minimum. Dogs with thicker coats are more prepared for extremely cold weather, but no pet should be left outside for longer than it takes for them to go to the bathroom and get a little exercise.

2. Use Winter Clothing

Greyhound-winterWhile your dog may not like to wear a sweater or jacket, it is very important to put something warm on your dog if it's below zero. This is especially important for dogs with thin coats, such as greyhounds. When you go back inside, keep a towel near the door to wipe their paws. Ice from sidewalks and roads can get stuck to your dog's paws, and most dogs will lick their paws after walking on frozen ground. Be sure to also check your dog’s paws for any cracks or bleeding from the cold weather. Clipping the hair between your dog’s toes can reduce the accumulation of ice. Put booties on them if they will let you. You may want to wash your dog more often in the winter as well, just to ensure that other chemicals from the road, such as anti-freeze, isn't ingested when they lick their fur.

3. Keep Dogs on a Leash

Dog-tied to bike rackKeep your dog on a leash, unless you are in a designated and enclosed area, such as a dog park. Also, be sure to keep treats with you to entice your dog to come to you if the dog gets loose. Updating tags and microchipping your pet are also important. When walking in icy conditions, keeping your dog on a leash will make it easier to keep the dog away from frozen ponds and streams. Don't ever leave a dog unattended in a car during sub-zero weather. Even if you think you'll only be gone for a few minutes, you may be gone longer than you expected. Leave the car on if you absolutely must leave your dog in the car for a short period of time.

4. Bulk Up for Winter

Just like humans, a little extra fat on your pet will help to keep them warm. Make sure you speak with your vet before you increase your dog or cat's food intake. Also talk to your vet about supplements that can support your pet's immune system to give them a little extra boost during the cold season. If you do increase their food, make sure to watch for excessive weight gain; the risk of weight-related issues may not outweigh the extra warmth in the winter. It really depends on your pet and their overall health.

5. Use Common Sense

This is the most basic yet important rule of all. Some pets may have a harder time adapting to the cold weather, such as older pets and arthritic pets. You may have to take more time with them on walks to ensure they don't slip and fall. According to the AVMA, "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." For more information on limitations of certain pets and for more pet safety tips, go to the AVMA website through the link provided.

How do you keep your pets safe in extreme weather? Post your tips on our Facebook page!

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