Pet Safety for when the Weather gets Cold
Although much of our focus is on keeping pets safe from overheating inside a locked car, that does not mean those who live in cold areas don’t have anything to worry about as far as the temperatures are concerned. In fact, frigid weather can cause some serious problems with your pet’s’ wellbeing, many of which can become chronic conditions.
Remember, even if there’s no snow outside, the temperature could still be far too low to be safe for your beloved dog to be romping around. The following tips will help keep your furry friends happy, healthy, and safe when the temperatures bottom out.
Don’t overfeed your pet during the winter! Though it might seem like giving your dog a layer of fat will help her be able to better deal with the cold, the health problems from being overweight for outweigh any kind of potential (and unlikely) benefit. If your pup spends much time outdoors during the winter, you will have to up her caloric intake a little bit to help deal with her body creating more heat energy, but otherwise, she should be eating about the same as any other season. If you have any concerns about your pet’s weight during the winter, consult your veterinarian for precise guidance.
Keep Your Pets Inside
Just because your pet has fur that doesn’t mean he can spend all day and night in frosty weather. If temperatures in your area are near, at, or below freezing, keep your pets indoors for most of the day. Take them outside to do their business and go for short walks, but otherwise, he should be spending as much time inside as every other member of your family. This is even true for dogs that have been bred with cold weather in mind – they can still succumb to things like hypothermia and frostbite if left outside too long.
Appropriate Shelter is a Must
If the weather in your area gets cold enough for winter to be a real concern for your dog’s health, your best course of action is to just let her sleep and spend most of her time indoors as noted above. However, if for some reason that is impossible for you, ensure that your dog’s shelter at least meets the following guidelines to ensure she is safe and away from the elements:
- Lifted floor to avoid heat loss into a frosted ground
- Solid construction that doesn’t allow wind inside
- Access to fresh (never frozen) water
- Refill the bowl with warm water when you notice ice forming
- Use a heated, pet-safe bowl
- Use dry, thick bedding
- Replace bedding often to combat moisture brought in by dog
- Don’t use artificial indirect heat
- Heat lamps and space heaters can lead to fire (especially in such a small space)
- If using a heated pet mat, monitor your dog’s condition closely to ensure she doesn’t get burns from being on it for extended periods
- Consider having heat mats on their lowest setting
This might all seem like a lot to take care of, but not doing one or more of these things can have fatal results during nightfall in cold regions.
Check Out Those Paws!
At least once a day, take a couple minutes to check out your dog’s paws. The cold weather can wreak havoc on your pup’s paws and can lead to some very painful situations. This can include cracked skin, bleeding, frostbite, and other conditions. Likewise, if you’re taking him out for a walk and he suddenly slows down or stops, take a moment to check out those paws! That behavior is indicative of an onset illness or simply that snow is building up between his toes.
Beware of Poisons
In climates where things can get particularly frozen, all sorts of dangerous chemicals can end up on the ground. People around your neighborhood (and maybe even you) use antifreeze and other deicing agents around their property in an effort to keep ice from developing. The thing is, though, that all those chemicals can prove to be dangerous to your dog. Further, when you take your dog for a walk, she’s going to get some of those chemicals on her paws, legs, and belly. Because of this, make it a regular part of your dog-walking routine to wipe down those areas so she doesn’t get poisoned from licking those spots.
On that same note, try using pet-friendly deicers around your yard and property to help keep her (and other dogs) safe. And when it comes to antifreeze, make sure to clean up spills as quickly as possible since dogs will so readily lap it up.
And since your dog will be spending more time indoors, make sure that any medication and dangerous-to-dogs foods are sealed and stored out of reach. Yes, this includes chocolate and onions, too.
Prepare for Disaster
When it rains, it pours, Unless, of course, you live in an area that gets snow and then blizzards can hit your house with a ton of force. When it’s time to sit down and start preparing an emergency kit and plan, don’t forget that your dog needs to be included as well. While an evacuation itself might not need much more than bringing your dog along, getting trapped inside can also be particularly dangerous to your dog. In your emergency kit, make sure to pack in enough dog food and water specifically for your pup (and medicine if required) for a minimum of five days.
All in All – Pay Attention and Avoid Unnecessary Risks
Spending time outside in the snow and ice can be a blast for the whole family, and that certainly includes your dog. However, that doesn’t mean you should force your dog into risky situations like walking on a frozen lake or going for especially long or difficult hikes.
To keep your dog safe in freezing temperatures, simply treat your pup just like you would any other member of your family (except for that one uncle who drives you crazy). Don’t put her outside when you leave the house. Let her sleep indoors. Make sure she’s not eating chemicals and that she’s well (but not over) fed.
If you notice any out-of-the-ordinary health problems at all, take your dog to the veterinarian as soon as possible. There is a chance that Fido has developed hypothermia or frostbite without you being aware of it. Be on the lookout for the following conditions when your dog is outside:
- Labored breathing
- Nonstop shivering
- Slow/stopped movement & lethargy
- Burrowing for warmth
- Any other unusual behavior
Cold-related health risks can onset very fast in dogs, especially since they don’t wear accessories like mittens, hats, and scarves like us. When it comes down to your dog’s health, pay attention to her while she’s outside and keep her as comfortable and taken care of when she’s inside and you’ll make it through the winter without problems.