The majority of us know the severe risks and consequences of leaving an animal in a vehicle on a hot summer day. However, not all of us are aware that cold weather can pose serious health and safety threats to our pets as well.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), below are some helpful tips to keep your pets safe and healthy this winter.
Cold weather may worsen some medical conditions your pet may have, such as arthritis. Your pet should be examined by a veterinarian at least once a year. If you haven’t already this year, have your pet checked out to make sure he/she is healthy as possible for cold weather.
Know your pet’s limits. Just like us, our pets’ cold tolerance can vary from pet to pet based on their coat, body fat stores, activity level, and overall health. Pay close attention to your pet’s tolerance for the cold, and adjust accordingly. Remember, short-haired pets feel the cold faster because they have less protection.
Provide sleeping 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 warm, comfy options.
Stay inside. Cats and dogs should be kept inside during very cold weather.
Make some noise & check your car. A warm vehicle engine can be an appealing heat source for outdoor and feral cats, but it’s deadly. Check underneath your car, bang on the hood, and honk the horn before starting the engine to make sure there are no cats seeking warmth.
Check the paws. Check your dog’s paws frequently for signs of cold-weather injury or damage, such as cracked paw pads or bleeding.
Play dress-up: If your dog has a short coat or seems really bothered by the cold weather, consider a warm sweater or dog coat.
Collar and chip: Many pets become lost in winter because snow and ice can hide recognizable scents that might normally help your pet find his/her way back home. Make sure your pet has a well-fitting collar with up-to-date identification and contact information.
Provide shelter: The AVMA doesn’t recommend keeping any pet outside for long periods of time in the cold weather, but if you are unable to keep your dog inside during cold weather, provide him/her with a warm, solid shelter against the wind, with unlimited access to fresh, non-frozen water.
Feed well: Keep your pet at a healthy weight throughout the winter. Outdoor pets will need more calories in the winter to produce enough body heat and energy to keep them sufficiently warm. Discuss your pet’s nutritional needs during cold weather with your veterinarian.
Recognize problems: If your pet is whining, shivering, seems anxious, slows down or stops moving, seems weak, or starts looking for warm places to burrow, get them back inside quickly because they are showing signs of hypothermia.
For more information and helpful tips about how to keep your pets safe and healthy this winter, visit www.avma.org.