Cold weather affects pets as well as humans. Some pets are better suited for cold weather than others. There is a common belief that dogs “will do just fine” if left outside. This is not true; professionals, including veterinarians and dog trainers will tell you that all pets need proper shelter and protection from the cold. Pets should not be left outside for long periods of time in freezing weather as they can suffer hypothermia and frostbite just like humans. Senior pets with arthritis have a more difficult time in the winter cold. Be cautious of icy walks, provide warm and soft bedding, and handle pets gently.
A designated area inside is the best option, but if that is not possible, an adequate shelter that is insulated with blankets or straw and that is protected from the outside elements will help retain your dog’s body heat. Using a heated water dish will keep the water from freezing. Consult your dog trainer or a pet care specialist at your local pet supply store about finding heated water dishes.
The use of heat lamps, space heaters, and other electrical devices is not recommended as they may not only burn your pet but may also create a fire hazard. Pet product suppliers have heated mats for pets to sleep on. These mats could also be placed under a doghouse. Be sure to read all manufacturers’ directions carefully to avoid misuse or injury to your pet. Also, note that outdoor pets require more food than normal for energy and for maintaining body heat.
Large chunks of ice can get between your dog or cat’s footpads, causing discomfort. Clipping the hair between the pads will help in keeping such ice from forming. Some dogs will tolerate dog boots, which offer protection when walking in snowy areas or on icy sidewalks. Your groomer can help you in trimming the fur between your dog or cat’s toes. Salt and de-icers can cause chapped, dry, and painful paws, and afflicted pets will lick their paws. This could cause stomach irritation and vomiting. Be sure to wash your pet’s feet with warm water after a walk on icy ground. When walking your dog or cat outdoors you may also consider providing a sweater of some sort for him. You can find these at different pet stores in your area, you can even make one yourself out of an old sweatshirt. ABC wishes you and your pets a happy winter!