What You Need to Know to Keep Your Pet Safe in the Cold Weather
As we enter the winter season, temperatures are beginning to drop. In fact, temperatures are expected to be below freezing for the next week. While we prepare to bundle up and brace for the cold, we must not forget about the safety of our pets.
While most are aware of the risks to pets from hot weather, it’s important to recognize that extreme cold is also a dangerous threat to your pet’s health and safety if caution is not taken.
“If it’s too cold for you to spend an extended period of time outside, it’s probably too cold for your pet, too,” said Marc Rosenzweig, owner and executive director of Willow Pet Hotel in Deer Park, NY. “So, try to keep your pets inside and when they must go out, try to keep it brief.”
As temperatures begin to fall, pets should not be left outside for long periods of time and you should monitor your pet from nearby to prevent frostbite and hypothermia. This is especially true for short-haired breeds who are less tolerant to the cold and short-legged animals who are closer to the frozen ground.
While certain breeds may have a higher tolerance to cold weather, it’s always best to keep time outside to a minimum and to keep a close eye on your pet if they must go outside.
“Just like humans who lose heat from the top of their heads, dogs lose heat through the bottom of their feet, or their pads,” Rosenzweig explains. “If you can get your dog a pair of booties, it would be well-advised. If not, be sure to dry off their feet well once they are inside after going out to do their business in the snow.”
Wiping down your pet’s paws, feet, legs and belly is especially important as they may pick up deicers, anti-freeze and other chemicals that could be harmful and toxic to your pet. Be sure to take caution and wipe your pet down thoroughly to prevent the risk that your pet may lick these chemicals.
“When grooming pets in the winter, we advise clipping the hair between a dog’s toes if you can, as it can reduce the chance of ice accumulation when the dog goes outside,” Rosenzweig explains.
There are several other precautions pet owners should take during extremely cold weather, including some of the following tips:
- Do not leave pets unattended in cars: just as hot cars pose a threat, cars rapidly cool down in below freezing weather becoming refrigerator-like with your pet stuck inside.
- Cold weather may exacerbate some medical conditions such as arthritis. If your pet has a severe health condition, it would be wise to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to make sure your pet is as healthy as possible for extreme weather.
- Since pets will likely spend more time inside, be mindful of “pet-proofing” your living space and use space heaters with extreme caution to avoid burns and prevent fire risks.
- Be prepared for cold weather emergencies: just as you stock up on food and water for a blizzard, be sure to include your pet in any disaster or emergency planning. Prepare your pet with food, water and any necessary medicine to get your pet through at least five days.
- Be ready to recognize behavioral changes in your pet. If your pet begins to look weak or he/she is shivering or anxious, be sure to move them inside quick as these are signs of hypothermia. Consult your veterinarian immediately.
In extreme below freezing weather pets should never be left outdoors unattended. Extreme cold can cause pets to become disoriented, sometimes leading to them being lost, stolen or injured, and in the worse-case scenarios it can lead to death. Make sure your pet has a well-fitting collar with current identification and contact information, and if your pet has a microchip make sure the registration is up-to-date.
If you’re looking to keep your dog active in a safe environment, Rosenzweig recommends Willow Pet Hotel’s Doggy Day Care program.
“The day care is open six days a week,” Rosenzweig explains. “We have outdoor and indoor play areas to accommodate all types of weather scenarios and the pets are always monitored by a trained staff member.”
If you have specific questions about the cold and its impact on your pet, don’t hesitate to contact Willow Pet Hotel for assistance at (631) 243-0000.