Cold Weather and Pets. What You Need To Know.
It is a common belief that dogs and cats are more resistant to cold weather than we are, but this is generally untrue. Although there are certain breeds with longer, thicker coats that can stand to be outside a little longer, no pet should remain outside for long periods of time in below freezing weather. Like us, our furry friends are also susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia and precautions should be taken. Remember, if it is too cold for you, it is probably too cold for your pets!
Provide Outdoor Shelter
If your pet spends much of their time outdoors in the winter, a shelter should be provided even if your pup has the thickest, fluffiest coat! The shelter should be large enough so they are able to sit, stand, and turn around, yet small enough to effectively lock in their own body heat. The Humane Society of the United States recommends a shelter that is raised a few inches off the ground and recommends lining the floor with either straw or cedar shavings for further insulation. They also suggest that the doorway be covered with burlap or heavy plastic to keep water out. Just remember, even with the warmest outdoor shelter around we still need to limit our furry friends’ time outdoors in the cooler months!
Providing fresh water and enough food is extremely important during the winter months. Keeping warm depletes a decent amount of energy which is why our pets generally eat and sleep more in the cooler months. We want to maintain a healthy weight, but still provide adequate amounts of food to keep up with these changes.
The Chicagoland area is known for its unpredictable weather in the wintertime and has bouts of heavy snow and ice. In order to keep up, salt is put down frequently and has a presence throughout the entire season. Pet owners need to understand that our pals’ pads are exposed every time we take them out and there are ways that we can protect their feet as we would our own! Salt can irritate our pets’ pads and if they decide to lick their paws, the salt can also irritate their mouths. It is important to wipe paws with a damp towel immediately after coming inside, or pet wipes can be purchased for this use as well. Local pet supply stores also sell booties of all kinds if you would like to avoid paw wiping completely! The ASPCA also recommends massaging petroleum jelly onto paw pads to avoid cracking.
Car and Wildlife Safety
We are not the only mammals seeking warmth this winter and we need to be aware of this especially when thinking about going for a drive. Small mammals, and cats especially, will seek shelter in tire wells and other small spaces underneath our vehicles. To avoid any casualties we can bang on the hood of the car, honk the horn, or make any other loud noises before starting the car.
Recognizing Existing Medical Issues
Arthritis pain and other existing health or medical issues can be intensified when temperatures drop. Not only will the cold air make our pets’ joints feel a little stiff, but we also need to be aware of slippery ice when out for a walk.
These are just a few precautions we can take during the cold winter months. As long as we remain attentive and observant of our pets’ behavior, we can keep them safe and happy!