Baby it’s cold outside and cold weather can be hard on pets, just like it can be hard on people. Sometimes owners forget that their pets are just as accustomed to the warm shelter of the indoors as they are. Dogs and cats can suffer from frostbite and hypothermia when left in the extreme cold for a prolonged period. Some owners will leave their animals outside for extended periods of time thinking that all animals are adapted to live outdoors. This can put their pets in danger of serious illness. There are things you can do to keep your animal warm and safe.
- Take your animals for a winter check-up before winter kicks in. Your veterinarian can check to make sure they don’t have any medical problems that will make them more vulnerable to the cold.
- Keep your pets inside as much as you can when the mercury drops. If you have to take them out, stay outside with them. When you’re cold enough to go inside, they probably are too. If you absolutely must leave them outside for a significant length of time, make sure they have a warm, solid shelter against the wind, thick bedding, and plenty of non-frozen water.
- Some animals can remain outside safely longer in the winter than others. In some cases, it’s just common sense; long-haired breeds will do better in cold weather than short-haired breeds. Cats and small dogs that have to wade shoulder-deep in the snow will feel the cold sooner than larger animals. Your pet’s health will also affect how long he/she can stay out. Conditions like diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease and hormonal imbalances can compromise a pet’s ability to regulate their body heat. Animals that are not generally in good health shouldn’t be exposed to winter weather for a long period of time. Very young and very old animals are vulnerable to the cold as well. Regardless of their health, though, no pets should stay outside for unlimited amounts of time in freezing cold weather. If you have any questions about how long your pet should be out this winter, ask your veterinarian.
There is nothing I hate to see more than a dog or cat left out in the cold without access to a warm, dry shelter. The rule of thumb at our house is that if we are cold, then more than likely our pets are too. Baylie and Smoki will let us know when they are ready to come in from the cold. Smoki will beg to go outside but will be yowling at the door within ten minutes to come back indoors. Baylie is a large-breed dog and prefers cool weather days over the heat we experience here in the South during the summer months. However, she is not acclimated to bitterly cold weather that we rarely experience. She is a less subtle than Smoki in alerting us that she is ready to come in from the cold by frantically scratching on the glass French door. On rare occasions when I have to leave Baylie outdoors during the day, she has access to an insulated dog house. It is located on the covered patio and is lined with plenty of warm blankets and a cushy bed to protect her from the wind and cold.
Just as we check on the well-being of our elderly loved ones during cold weather to make sure they are safe and warm, let’s not forget about our four-legged family members. Bring them indoors, if possible, or provide for them a warm, covered shelter and an unfrozen water source for hydration.