Our pets are part of our family, and just as we make provisions to keep our children warm and cozy in the winter, the same must be done for our dogs and cats. The frigid winter temperatures are not just inconvenient; they can be incredibly dangerous for our pets. Experts say frostbite can take hold in less than 15 minutes, and animals are not exempt from this despite their furry coats.
Frostbite is bad enough, but hypothermia is the most dangerous hazard when the weather gets this cold. Signs of hypothermia include violent shivering followed by listlessness, a rectal temperature below 95-degrees Fahrenheit, weak pulse, lethargy, and coma. It can become fatal very fast.
It goes without saying that every dog and cat needs to be indoors during cold temperatures like these. I would argue, however, that dogs and cats need to be indoors during any cold temperatures. If you are cold, they are cold, simple as that. Outdoors is no place for pets.
Here are some other tips to keep your precious pups and kitties contented and protected this winter:
Pay extra attention to puppies. Puppies are more susceptible to the cold than dogs due to their tender age. They will suffer from the harsh realities of the cold quicker and should not spend much time outdoors in harsh weather conditions. In addition, they may have some issues potty training during cold spells. Understandably, puppies may have more accidents in this weather.
Frostbite most often occurs on the thin, exposed areas of a dog. The skin of their ears, tail, scrotum, and paws may look blue or white but will appear red and inflamed when circulation comes back. The surface of the skin may peel and eventually turn black. Use warm (not hot) compresses on the affected areas and then seek medical care.
Cats are particularly vulnerable to the cold and can actually freeze to death. Crafty cats will do what they have to do to stay warm and alive. When left outside, many cats seek out warmth under car hoods and engines, and can easily be killed when cars are turned on, so take a peek under your hood and tires before turning on your car.
Make sure collars are secure and never let dogs off the leash. Getting lost in sub-zero temps is deadly. Their scent trails are compromised in the snow, and frostbite and hypothermia can set in quickly, leaving them unable to find their way back home.
Cars can be lethal. It’s worth remembering that a cold car can be just as deadly as a hot car for a dog. They can freeze to death in an unheated vehicle. Not only are they already at freezing temps, but cars can act as a refrigerator, keeping all the coldness inside.
Stay away from salt. Be on the lookout for salt on sidewalks and driveways, which can irritate and even burn your pup’s paws. Wipe their paws off with a paper towel or warm cloth when you return from a walk.
Check on neighboring pets. It’s imperative to remember that if we see an animal left outside in this weather, we must report it to the proper authorities as soon as possible. Dogs left outside in cold temperatures suffer needlessly and can easily die. It is a form of abuse. We are the protectors of animals and need to be vigilant about their well being at all times.
Anti-freeze can be fatal. It is poisonous, and even a lick or two on a quick walk can add up to distress for your dog. Keep an eye out for any liquid on sidewalks and steer clear of it. Also, do not let your dogs roam freely where you cannot monitor their activity. If there is any doubt that your dog may have ingested antifreeze, take her to the vet immediately.
Danielle Sullivan, a mom of three, has worked as a writer and editor in the parenting world for more than 10 years. Sullivan also writes about pets and parenting for Disney’s Babbl