Living where we do we are accustomed to protecting our pets from the intense heat that come with our Texas summers. It isn’t as common for us to see severe cold conditions that would cause us to take more precautions regarding our pets and being outside during the winter. When we think of a frigid winter, we usually think of images on the news of snowed in towns, 18 car pileups, and that sense of thankfulness that we do not live there! But, even with our mild winters, there are still hazards that can affect the health of our pets.
Cold weather can worsen conditions that a good majority of our older pets have such as arthritis. Have you ever woken up on a chilly morning and needed extra time to get moving? Do you ever joke that “it’s a cold one outside – my knees are the best weathermen I know!” Well, our older pets feel the changes in their joints just as we do, they might move slower on cold days or might not want to be outside as long as they usually would have. If we were to have any freezing episodes, older pets could also have a hard time walking in slippery conditions – like they do on our slippery floors inside. If you feel like your pet is having arthritic changes (slowing down, not jumping on things like before, weakness or shaking of limbs, loss of muscle mass over their hind end, etc.) – come talk with us about how we can help relieve their discomfort!
Just like people, pets have their limits as to how much cold they can handle. A young husky is more likely to enjoy a crisp day, than an old chihuahua – who probably wouldn’t step foot outside on a cold day (and you’d most likely get the “you expect me to go out there” look as they run back to their place on the couch). Coat type, body fat stores, activity level, and overall health and age are all factors that can affect just how much cold a pet can tolerate. Long-haired breeds will be able to stay outside longer than short-haired breeds, but they are still at risk to cold weather. Both very young and elderly pets should be limited on their outside time during very cold times.
Health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, and hormonal imbalances (such as Cushing’s disease) already limit a pet’s ability to regulate their body temperature and this makes them more susceptible to problems from very hot or very cold temperatures. If your daily routine involves time outside, consider buying a jacket or sweater for your pet to wear. Do not overfeed your pets during cold months. It’s commonly thought that more fat = more body heat, but the health risks associated with increased weight greatly outweigh the myth of more warmth. Keep your pet at a healthy, ideal weight all year long to limit any effects on their joints or general body functions.
Vehicles can provide hazardous concerns as well. Leaking antifreeze can lead to poisoning in our dogs and our cats. It has a sweet smell and taste so our furry friends are attracted to it – ingestion of the chemical has rapid absorption and even a small amount can lead to permanent damage to the kidneys. Larger ingestion amounts have a narrow margin of safety and could lead to death. Be sure to keep these chemicals securely put away and clean up any leaks or spills that you see.
Vehicles also act as a “shelter” for stray cats. They will seek out the warmth from the engine after a car has parked for the night, hiding in the fender wells or under the hood in the engine compartment. Before starting your vehicle after a cold night, honk the horn multiple times or bang on the hood or sides to wake up and scare off any animals that might be hunkered down in there.
Cold weather can also lead to dry, itchy skin. Keeping your home humidified can help relieve this. Do not shave your pets down to their skin in the winter. Pet’s fur is specially designed to help them regulate their body temperature.
Remember – if it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for them!
By: Kaitie Barczak