When It’s Cold Outside, Think Pet Safety

If you’re shivering, your dog (or cat) probably is, too. Here’s what the American Veterinary Medical Association wants you to know about cold-weather pet safety:

Cold-Tolerance Varies.  Short-legged dogs with short coats and little body fat are most vulnerable to cold (think dachshunds). Also cold-sensitive: older dogs and puppies. Dogs with health issues like diabetes, kidney disease, and Cushing’s disease may also struggle to regulate body temperature in frigid weather.  And those with arthritis will feel joint pain more acutely.

Dress for the Weather.  A dog-sweater isn’t about playing dress-up. For a small dog with little body-fat, it can be a lifesaver.

Inside Only.  When temperatures dip to freezing, pets must be inside with access to a warm sleep area. Remember that the temperature inside a parked car quickly becomes as cold (or hot) as the temperature outside. Never leave your pet inside a car in freezing weather. 

Check Paws.  After walks, check paws for traces of de-icing agents or anti-freeze, which can turn up on walkways and be hazardous when pets lick their paws. Rinse paws in clean warm water to be sure you pet won’t ingest chemicals from a snow-cleared walkway. 

Bang on the Hood.  A warm engine can tempt cats to seek shelter under the hood of your car. Before starting your car in cold weather, knock on the hood to scare off an animal who might be hiding inside.

Water, Not Ice.  An outdoor water-bowl quickly becomes a block of ice. Make sure your pet has access to fresh—not frozen—water when he’s outside.

Put Pets in your Power-Outage Plan.  Stock a five-day supply of pet food and medicine in case your snowed-in at home or your power goes out. Feed your pet well during cold weather; calories provide the fuel dogs (and humans) need to stay warm.