The temperature outside is dropping, and humans aren’t the only ones affected by the cold weather. Did you know that pets are also susceptible to hypothermia and frost bite?
What is Hypothermia?
Hypothermia is an unsafe drop in body temperature. This happens when the outside temperature is too cold for the pet’s body to stay warm.
Signs to watch for include severe shivering and shaking, lethargy and dull mental state.
What is Frostbite?
Frostbite occurs when the skin and extremities are exposed to severe cold causing these areas to freeze.
Recognize frostbite by examining the extremities (paw pads, toes, tail tip, nose, ears, muzzle) and look for skin discoloration, pain or lack of feeling when touched, cold to the touch and possibly actual frost or ice crystals on the skin. If you suspect that your pet has hypothermia or frostbite, have them seen by your veterinarian immediately.
Follow these four tips to keep your pet warm and safe this winter!
1. Provide a Warm Environment – This seems like a no-brainer, but many pet owners don’t realize just how cold the winter weather can be when they are wrapped up in coats, hats and gloves. If your pet lives outside, be sure to provide a warm, dry, secure, comfortable area for your pet that provides a full wind-break. For inside pets, remember that they are not used to being outside for prolonged periods of time which can lead to hypothermia and frost bite sooner than pets who are adjusted to the outside winter weather.
2. Provide Protective Clothing – While you may or may not be a fan of dressing pets up in clothing, providing winter weather protection for your pet is important for preventing hypothermia and frost bite. A warm coat helps keep body heat from escaping while booties protect paw pads from frost bite. Be sure to have the winter gear properly fitted to your pet, since ill-fitting protective clothing can cause more problems than it prevents.
3. Limit Time Exposure to Cold Weather – The longer your pet is exposed to cold weather, the faster they can develop hypothermia and frostbite. Be sure to keep time outside in the cold limited to what your pet is comfortable with. Your pet’s breed, size, body fat and hair coat are all factors along with outside temperature and wind chill that affect how long they can withstand the cold weather. To be on the safe side, ask your veterinarian for their recommendation on how long your pet can comfortably and safely be in the cold weather.
4. Avoid Wet Conditions – As we all know, the key to staying warm is staying dry! Avoid leaving pets outside during rain, sleet or snow. Even pets who have thick, furry coats can lose their ability to say warm if their coats get wet. Provide a dry, sheltered environment outside if your pet must spend time outside during the cold temperatures. Don’t let pets swim in cold weather, even if they want to! Dogs can get hypothermia quickly after swimming in or falling into cold water such as a lake. Keep your pets dry this winter to keep them safe!
By Dr. Eva Evans, a veterinarian and writer for Pets Best. Since 2005, Pets Best has been offering pet health insurance plans for dogs and cats across the U.S.