Cold weather can make some conditions, like arthritis, worse. It is always a good idea to have a veterinarian check your pet if you notice their condition becoming more obvious or if you see them in pain.
Just like people, all animals have different levels of tolerance for cold weather. This tolerance is based on many factors, like weight, age, long/short hair, and illnesses like diabetes or hormonal imbalances. It’s important to adjust your caretaking to your pet’s needs to keep them from experiencing severe weather-related conditions.
If at all possible, keep your pets inside during the cold weather. Animals are not significantly more resistant to the cold weather and can get hypothermia and frostbite. No pets should be kept outside for very long in below-freezing weather.
If you are unable to keep your pet inside during cold weather, make sure that they have a warm shelter to protect them from wind. The floor of the shelter should be off the ground with many thick, dry blankets but no space heaters or heating pads. They also need access to fresh, un-frozen water.
Many outdoor or feral cats are attracted to the warmth of a vehicle engine. Before you start your car, bang on the hood, check under the car, and honk the horn to encourage the cats to find a new cozy spot.
Everyone knows not to leave a dog in a hot car, but the same concept applies to cold vehicles also. Parked cars cool down rapidly in cold weather and pets that are young, old, skinny, or sick are especially susceptible to the cold environment. Don’t leave your pets unattended in a cold car (or any car regardless of the temperature).
Your pets will be spending more time inside this winter, so it’s important to make sure your house is safe for everyone. Place space heaters in safe locations so that they don’t start a fire if knocked over and don’t catch your pet on fire. Replace the batteries in your carbon monoxide detectors to keep the entire family safe and make sure that they don’t have access to medication bottles, household cleaners, and toxic foods like chocolate, xylitol (a sugar substitute), coffee, or raisins.
Although we don’t have too much ice in Johnson county, it is still important to mention that when you walk your dog, stay away from frozen ponds and creeks. There is no way of knowing whether the ice can support your dog’s weight and if your dog falls through the ice, it can very easily become a deadly situation. Your first reaction is to try to save your dog from underneath the ice, putting your life in jeopardy as well. Stay away from frozen bodies of water and avoid this nightmare scenario.
Pets can experience hypothermia and frostbite just like humans. If you notice your pet whining, shivering, anxiously looking for warm places to burrow, slowing down or becoming weaker, bring them inside immediately and begin to warm them. If you don’t notice an improvement relatively quickly, seek medical care.
In Texas, we don’t usually have severe weather, but there is always the possibility of a power outage or winter storm. It’s never a bad idea to have a pet emergency bag containing enough food, water, and prescription medicine to last at least five days so your pet has the things it needs to withstand the storm.
Try to keep your pet at a healthy weight through the winter. Some people believe that a little extra weight will give their pet extra protection through the winter, but the health risks of being overweight (risk of heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, etc.) don’t make it worth it. However, outdoor pets may need more food to generate body heat to stay warm.