Winter Cold and Pets: Pet Owners in Dartmouth, Massachusetts

winter cold and petsWhile most pet owners are aware of the dangers associated with leaving pets in hot cars or allowing them to walk on the pavement in summer, many do not know the risks associated with cold, winter weather. Pet owners in Dartmouth and other Southcoast cities should pay attention to temperature forecasts, especially if they have pets that spend a lot of time outdoors. Rabbit hutches should be brought indoors during the winter months, providing extra protection from snow, wind, sleet, and ice. Dogs should not be tied up outdoors and made to sleep in backyard dog houses, but instead should be given indoor access – even if just to a warm garage to prevent hypothermia. Make sure your pet is ready for the winter season by scheduling an annual exam for veterinary care in Massachusetts at your local Dartmouth animal hospital. Winter cold and pets can be a dangerous combination, especially for very young and senior pets.

What Can Your Pet Tolerate Safely?

The temperature preferences of a full-grown Husky will be vastly different from a senior Chihuahua’s needs. Speak with your trusted veterinarian about winter cold and pets to determine when your dog, cat, rabbit, or other family pet should be made to stay primarily indoors. Even if your pet wants to go outside, sometimes you might need to step in and keep them warm inside the house. A pet’s cold tolerance can depend on several factors, including their coat, the amount of body fat, activity level, and overall health. Cold weather can worsen your pet’s conditions, including arthritis and other related diseases, similarly to the aching joints and bones we experience as human adults. If cold weather has become a problem for your pet, consider scheduling your annual check-up during this time of year.

Elderly pets can have difficulty walking in the snow or on the ice. A small slip and fall can be just as dangerous for weak legs and stiff backs in dogs as it is for people. Pets with long or thick coats might be more well-suited for cold weather in their prime, but it could become more of a risk for young or senior animals. Pets with short legs can get colder faster, increasing the chance of developing hypothermia. If your pet has other diseases or conditions, including diabetes, kidney disease, hormonal imbalances, or heart disease, they could have a hard time regulating their body temperature and could have issues during the cold winter and the hot summer as a result. Consult with your veterinarian if you have any questions at all about your pet’s ability to tolerate extreme temperature conditions.

Create a Comfortable Space Indoors

Provide your pet with multiple options indoors so they can get the degree of warmth they need to stay healthy. A cozy bed near the fireplace or heater might feel good at first, but if they get too hot, there should be a place where they can cool down, as well. Blankets can be helpful in some situations, but make sure they are used while supervised, especially with pets that tend to chew on things. Never leave your pet outside for long periods in freezing temperatures. Train them to come in when called and keep your outdoor cats in for the winter season. Many outdoor cats get themselves into dangerous situations when they seek warmth during the winter. Warm vehicle engines can attract cats, rodents, and other animals, which can be deadly. Get in the habit of honking your horn before starting the engine to scare off any stowaways under the hood.

Keep your pet home during the winter months, similar to how you would in the summer. Just because it’s not a hot car in the sun doesn’t mean it’s not dangerous. The interior of a vehicle can cool down quickly and expose your pet in a trapped area to freezing temperatures within a matter of minutes. Never leave a pet in a running vehicle – there are so many things that can go wrong. Limit any type of car travel to vet or grooming appointments, and never leave your pet unattended for any reason. Speak with a professional when you seek veterinary care in Massachusetts about ways to recognize weather-related issues. Pets that are shivering, whining, slow-moving, stiff, weak, or seeking a place to burrow might be showing the early signs of hypothermia. Frostbite can cause serious damage days after exposure, so the sooner you can get your pet to our Dartmouth animal hospital for an emergency check-up after a weather-related incident, the better. Contact Anchor Animal Hospital to learn more by calling 508-996-3731 and speak with one of our team members.