Keep Pets Safe in Cold Weather

It’s getting cold out! Extremely cold weather presents concerns for human health, with very real dangers like hypothermia and frostbite to protect against. We can easily bundle up and turn up the thermostat. But we are also responsible for keeping our furry friends safe in inclement conditions. Did you know that both hypothermia and frostbite could easily affect dogs and cats, even when they appear to have a thick, furry coat? Keep Fluffy and Fido cozy with these safety tips in mind:


1. Bring Dogs and Cats Inside:

The best way to keep cats and dogs warm and safe from hypothermia is to allow them into your home, especially at night, when temperatures are likely to drop dramatically. Provide a bed for your pet that is set up off of the cold floor. A cozy pet bed is perfect (and my spoiled dog sleeps on the couch). If bringing a pet inside is absolutely not an option, your pet needs to be provided a sturdy shelter from the wind. Insulate the shelter with a thick bed of straw, or consider investing in a safe heated floor. Do not use electric heaters or lamps as they are fire hazards. Also, try and refrain from leaving your pet in the car while you’re out and about. A closed car in a cold parking lot can have a refrigeration affect, resulting in a dogsicle or catsicle.


Etta James modeling a snuggly scarf. She tried to eat the scarf moments later.

2. Be Aware of Other Outdoor Risks:

Letting pets remain outside presents other serious dangers. Outdoor cats are often tempted to curl up inside the hoods of parked cars on top of still-warm engines. They can be grievously injured when drivers return to their vehicles and start their engines. As a pet owner, you should attempt to keep your cat inside. As a driver, try to remember to bang on the hood of your car to warn cats away. Also, watch out for antifreeze spills and promptly clean up any spills that may occur. The liquid smells and tastes sweet to animals and they can be very tempted to drink it, which can lead to kidney failure and death. You could also consider switching to an antifreeze that uses propylene glycol as opposed to ethylene glycol.


3. Adjust Food and Water:

Cold, dry winter air and shivering from the cold can contribute to dehydration in both humans and animals. Consequently, it’s important to make water readily accessible for your pet. Do not allow water to freeze over. Trying to drink frozen or partially frozen water can prove impossible and can also harm the skin cells on your pet’s snout and mouth. Either monitor Fluffy’s water bowl closely or look into buying your pet a heated bowl. Also, keep in mind that your dog or cat may need additional calories to keep them warm. The ASPCA recommends increasing your pet’s protein consumption to keep him or her healthy.


4. Bundle Them Up:

Some pets might not take kindly to wearing sweaters or jackets at first, but for short-haired breeds or animals that express discomfort in cold temperatures, such as shivering or being reluctant to go outside, it really is essential. Pet MD advises choosing doggie jackets or sweaters made from a blend of wool and acrylic or cotton. It is also important to measure your dog and choose a garment that will fit properly and be comfortable.

Sure, they look a little silly, but also consider buying boots for your dog. The pads of dogs’ feet can be very sensitive and ice can easily become painfully caked between their toes. It is also likely that the ground will be covered with salt and de-icing chemicals which can be harmful to your pets’ toes and even more harmful if they come in from outside and lick their feet.


5. Closely Monitor Behavior:

In cold weather, it is important to watch for any behavioral changes in your pet. If a pet starts to limp after being outside, check for signs of frostbite on his or her paws. Look for skin that looks irritated or has undergone a change of color (frostbite may also affect other extremities like the tail or tips of ears). If it looks like Fido may have frostbite, contact your veterinarian. In the meantime, hold a warm cloth or towel on the affected area, without rubbing as rubbing the area can further damage the tissue. Limping may also be a sign that your pet is suffering from arthritis that is being exacerbated by the cold weather. If you suspect that this is the case, contact your veterinarian.

If your pet is behaving in a manner that seems more listless or lethargic than usual, it may be a sign that he or she has either ingested harmful antifreeze or may be suffering from hypothermia. Contact your veterinarian immediately, as both of these conditions are very serious.


Remember that Fido and Fluffy rely on you to keep them safe and warm in cold weather. Take these steps to keep them comfy. If you suspect that neighbors are neglecting to take proper measures to protect their animals in inclement conditions, share these tips with them. If you strongly suspect that animals in your neighborhood are being neglected or left outside without protection, consider calling local law enforcement or ASPCA for help, as cold weather can be very dangerous or deadly to animals.



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