How to Protect Pets from Cold Weather

When winter hits, pet owners think about how to keep their animals safe and comfortable. And veterinarians say it’s reasonable to be concerned.

“The dangers of extreme cold are equal. Dangers of extreme heatsaid Dr. Deborah Mandel, director of emergency services at the University of Pennsylvania’s Matthew J. Ryan Veterinary Hospital.

Pets can develop hypothermia and frostbite, he said. They may slip on ice, or suffer cold-related paw injuries. Fortunately, a few simple precautions can help pet owners minimize the risks.

The vets we spoke with were reluctant to offer blanket statements about how long pets can safely be outside in the cold. But if the temperature is at or below freezing, no more than 10 to 15 minutes is a good standard, Dr. Mendel said. “For most, it’s a good rule of thumb to go outside to go to the bathroom, then go back inside, as it’s too hot,” he said.

For a gut check, it may help to ask: Am I anxious right now? If so, your pet probably is, too, said Dr. Rebecca Roach Gilley, an associate professor at Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

Also consider other weather conditions: Being in the sun for a few minutes on a cold but otherwise dry, calm day is different than going out on a day that’s also snowing, wet or windy.

An animal’s ability to tolerate cold comfortably depends on factors such as age, overall health, and body makeup. “Look at a greyhound, for example, that has no undercoat and very little hair,” said Dr. Roch-Galey. “They are not as cold tolerant as some breeds that have double coats.”

The American Veterinary Medical Association also notes that pets with short legs can become cold more quickly than pets with long legs, because their bodies are more likely to come into contact with the cold ground. .

Very young and very old animals can struggle with body temperature regulation, as can those suffering from underlying health conditions. For example, an older pet with arthritis or inflammation may feel particularly uncomfortable in the cold, Dr. Roach-Giley said, although some people find it comforting.

“If they’re shaking, if they’re less willing to walk, if they’re lifting their feet as if they’re nervous, those are all signs that you’re going to have to deal with it,” said senior medical director Dr. Gabriel Fadel. It should be considered.” Programs and projects with Bondweight in New York City. She especially urged dog owners to check their paws for ice or snowballs trapped between their toes while outside, and for cracking or bleeding when you get indoors. Took

good news? “Mammals usually tell you when they’re uncomfortable in the cold,” said Dr. Roche-Giley. “Where we run into problems is with a dog that likes to go out and play in the snow,” she said, and “all of a sudden, they realize they can’t feel their feet anymore. can.”

Indoor pets are usually fine during cold weather, experts said, even if you keep your house on the cold side. (Of course, animals with very specific temperature and humidity needs, such as reptiles, must closely monitor their environment.)

You may notice your pet seeking heat, but that’s not necessarily a red flag. “Even with my own two cats, I find them huddled together more during the warmer months,” Dr. Fadel said. Just make sure your pet has a bed, blanket or even a “hideout,” and be aware of the danger posed by space heaters, he said. Animals can peck at them or burn themselves, he said.

If your pet will tolerate it, a sweater or jacket can be a good option on freezing or colder days, experts say. So can booties, especially if your pet will be walking on surfaces that have melted salt or snow. Can damage claws. And if eaten, it will be dangerous. If your pet is allergic to herbs, balms can also help prevent paw pads from breaking down, Dr. Fadel said. No matter what, make sure to clean your pet’s claws when you get home, vets said.

If your four-legged friend has a lot of fur between his toes, trimming it can help prevent snowballs from forming — but don’t groom too much during the colder months.

“Their coat is designed to try to regulate temperature,” said Dr. Roach-Galey. “You really have the ability to disrupt that.”

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