Brutally cold weather can be dangerous for pets

Posted By elaine on December 7, 2009

Dog curls up trying to keep warm.  Courtesy BBC

Dog curls up trying to keep warm. Courtesy BBC

Ok… I know I have posted it before, but I have to post it again.  Please bring your pets inside during these cold spells.  I have suggested it as a precaution on most winter nights, but when temperatures dip this low it really does become a matter of life and death.     Although they are equipped with fur coats, dogs and other domestic animals can still suffer from frostbite and exposure, and they can become dehydrated when water sources freeze.  Here are some other tips to keep your pets safe and comfy when the weather is harsh. 

  • Keep animals inside. This is especially important to remember when it comes to puppies and kittens, elderly animals, small animals, and dogs with short hair, including pointers, Beagles, Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, and Dobermans. Short-haired animals will also benefit from a warm sweater or coat on walks.
  • Don’t allow your cat or dog to roam freely outdoors. During winter, cats sometimes climb under the hoods of cars to be near warm engines and are badly injured or killed when the car is started.
  • If your dogs spend much time outside and they are lean, you should increase food rations during cold spells because they are burning more calories to keep warm.  Don’t free feed, but up their food.  I recommend a food higher in fat and protein.  I look for a food with 25%-32% protein and 10%-15% fat for most healthy dogs.   Canidae, Solid Gold, Taste of the Wild, and Merrick foods are some good options.  If you normally feed a “diet” dog food, you may want to go to a regular food and cut the amount down a little during extreme cold.  Also, be sure that animals are free of internal parasites, which can rob them of vital nutrients.
  • Wipe off your dogs’ or cats’ legs, feet, and stomachs after they come in from the snow. Salt and other chemicals can make your animals sick if they ingest them while cleaning themselves. If they get very wet and have longer coats dry your pet thoroughly to the skin.  Wet fur left against skin can cause issues like hot spots. Also dogs paws will ball up with ice and just plain get cold.  If your dog starts to limp… his paws are getting to cold, and it is time to go in.
  • If your dog must be left out while you are at work; make sure that they have shelter.  Doghouses should be made of wood (because metal is a poor insulator) and positioned in a sunny location during cold weather. Raise the house off the ground several inches and put a flap over the door to keep out cold drafts. Use straw for bedding—rugs and blankets can get wet and freeze.
  • Now you also may consider a heat lamp.  They can be a great option, but a warning.  If they fall into straw or bedding they can get hot enough to start a fire.  Cords might be temping for some dogs to chew and that could be a serious electrical hazard for your pet. Another issue is that if a wet, snowy dog shakes and that cold water hits the hot bulb there is a good chance that it will shatter leaving glass on the dogs bed and/or frighten him enough that he stays out of his shelter.   I myself think the benefits out-weigh the dangers here.

    sled dogs

    Even well equipped "Husky" breeds suffer when temperatures dip below zero.

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