We’re rounding the seasonal corner into the fall months, which means that winter is just a ways away. With the winter come the usual maladies like sniffles, flu and colds that are expected for humans; however, winter is especially a tough time for pets that spend any regular amount of time outside. How can an owner effectively protect their pet from the harsher climate without compromising normal behaviors such as regular walks and outdoor independence?
Few people realize this, but winter has the same impact on our pets that it does to humans. A coat of fur can only do so much; precautions must be taken to protect the health and wellbeing of your best friends in the chilly winter months ahead. To avoid a trip to the veterinarian, the following are some points and precautions a responsible pet owner should make for ensuring health in low temperatures.
A pet’s age is a definite deal-breaker on the extent and frequency that they should be allowed outdoors in cold weather. Especially young dogs and cats should not be kept outside for extended periods of time. Also, elderly pets are equally vulnerable in the cold. Young and old pets do not have the required body fat, metabolism speed, and fur to be properly protected in low temperatures; they should be kept inside for their own good.
Pet clothing is adorable, right? A puppy wrapped up snug in a miniature Bill Cosby sweater? Awww. But, be responsible with it. While clothing is a popular way of warming up your pets in cold temperature, it is counter-effective if utilized incorrectly. If a piece of clothing becomes wet, remove it. Wet clothing is as counterproductive for an animal as it is for a human. Also, pet clothing will not make the weather more bearable for elderly or young pets. Pet clothing is for pets of a healthy outdoor age, and is not a suitable substitute for a full coat of fur or insulating body fat.
Aside from the cold, there are certain other seasonal behaviors that a pet owner should look out for. Always know where your pet is and what they are doing. Underneath a car is a popular place for cats to hide in cold months. The lack of frost and the warmth above is most appealing. Always check under your car and maybe even honk the horn a few times to scare any hiding animals away. Also, spilled antifreeze should be cleaned up immediately. It’s sticky sweetness will be alluring to animals that could seriously poison themselves by attempting to eat it. If your pet does ingest antifreeze or any similar chemical, veterinary attention should be taken immediately. Take your pet to the nearest animal hospital; it doesn’t take very much to be a fatal dose.
This brings us to treatment. If your pet experiences a negative reaction to the cold (stiff muscles, weak appetite, shivering, lethargy), there are some quick measures you can take. Bring the pet into a warm room and wrap them with dry, warm blankets or towels. Rest a warm water bottle, wrapped in a towel, at their abdomen, and immediately call the veterinarian. A vet will be best able to tell you the next course of action and if you should risk traveling to a vet clinic.
Above all, have empathy for your pet. The best rule of thumb is that if the weather is too cold for you, chances are it’s too cold for your pet in extended exposures. Give them a safe spot in the home, hallway, or well insulated garage to retreat to during extreme temperatures, and your pet should stay healthy and incident free during periods of cold.