ASK THE VET

Cold weather is as dangerous as hot weather for pets

American Veterinary Medical Foundation
Posted

You’re probably already aware of the risks posed by warm weather and leaving pets in hot cars, but did you know that cold weather also poses serious threats to your pets’ health?

Here are some tips to keep your pets safe during cold weather, provided by the American Veterinary Medical Foundation (AMVF):

Winter wellness: Has your pet had his/her preventive care exam (wellness exam) yet?  Cold weather may worsen some medical conditions such as arthritis. Your pet should be examined by a veterinarian at least once a year, and it’s as good a time as any to get him/her checked out to make sure (s)he is ready and as healthy as possible for cold weather.

Know the limits:  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 likely need to shorten your dog’s walks in very cold weather to protect you both from weather-associated health risks.

Check the paws: Check your dog’s paws frequently for signs of cold-weather injury or damage, such as cracked paw pads or bleeding. During a walk, a sudden lameness may be due to an injury or may be due to ice accumulation between his/her toes. Reduce the chance of iceball accumulation by clipping the
hair between your dog’s toes.

Play dress-up: If your dog has a short coat or seems bothered by the cold weather, consider a sweater or dog coat. Have several on hand, so you can use a dry sweater or coat each time your dog goes outside. Wet sweaters or coats can actually make your dog colder. Some pet owners also use booties to protect their dog’s feet; if you choose to use them, make sure they fit properly.

Provide choices: Just like you, pets prefer comfortable sleeping places and may change their location based on their need for more or less warmth. Give them some safe options to allow them to vary their sleeping place to adjust to their needs.

Stay inside: Like people, pets are susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia and should be kept inside. Longer-haired and thick-coated dog breeds are more tolerant of cold weather; but no pet should be left outside for long periods of time in below-freezing weather. Limit car travel to only that which is necessary, and never leave your pet unattended in a cold vehicle.

Provide shelter: If you absolutely cannot keep your dog inside during cold weather, provide them with a warm, solid shelter, protected from the wind. Make sure they have unlimited access to fresh, non-frozen water, and that the floor is off of the ground. Bedding should be thick, dry and changed regularly. Space heaters, heat lamps and heated mats should be avoided because of the risk of burns or fire. ■

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