Tips for Cold Weather

When temperatures drop sub-zero, make sure to follow these simple pet safety tips for cold weather

With the recent cold snap we’ve had in Alberta, it’s important to remember that our furry family members require extra special care when the temperature drops to extreme lows. To help keep your pets happy and healthy, here are 5 tips to help keep your pets safe during bouts of extremely cold weather.

Keep ’em Indoors!

While there’s no hard and fast rule about what temperature is too cold for pets, a general rule of thumb to follow is that if it’s too cold for you to sit out there without winter gear, it’s too cold for them to sit out there, too! While certain breeds may be more equipped to handle the extreme cold, it’s best to keep all pets (including outdoor cats) inside until the weather warms up. If you do take them out for a pee break, keep it brief and watch for signs of frozen paws or hypothermia. Not only is it safer for your pet indoors during cold snaps, but it is also a violation of the Animal Protection Act to cause an animal to be in distress and to fail to provide an animal with protection from injurious heat or cold.

Never Leave a Dog in a Cold Car

Just like we recommend during periods of extreme heat, the same goes for extremely cold temperatures. A cold car can act like a refrigerator, trapping that freezing arctic air in the car and dropping your pet’s body temperature quickly, which puts your pet at risk of hypothermia, suffocation, and freezing. If your pet has an underlying medical condition like diabetes, heart disease, or kidney disease, it’s harder for them to regulate their body temperatures and could cause medical distress. Err on the side of caution with this one and don’t leave your dog in the car during a period of extreme cold.

Protect Your Pupper’s Paws

Even if your pet isn’t spending much time outdoors, dry winter air can wreak havoc on sensitive paws. It’s important to keep their paw pads healthy to avoid painful cracking and peeling, which can be worsened by time spent outdoors in the extreme cold. If you notice dry, irritated, or bleeding paw pads, you can treat minor cases at home by using a paw pad ointment to moisturize the skin and help it heal up.

If you must take them outdoors for an extended period of time, you should have your dog wear protective booties, if they will tolerate it. Whenever you come back inside after an extended period of time outdoors, make sure to wipe their paws with a clean towel to remove any ice balls, salt, and harmful chemicals like antifreeze that may have been picked up along the way.

Keep Time Outdoors to a Minimum

If your pet needs to get out of the house to burn some off some energy, be sure to keep it brief, do it during the warmest part of the day, or find some indoor activities to keep them entertained and exercised. During periods of extreme cold, never take your dog outdoors for an extended period of time without proper weather gear like a warm jacket and dog booties. Like humans, dogs are susceptible to frostnip, frostbite, and hypothermia, and extreme cold can injure their sensitive paws.

A few signs that your pet is too cold include shaking and shivering, lifting his paws off the ground, a hunched posture with their tail tucked between their legs, a reluctance to keep walking, weakness, and slow or shallow breathing. If you notice any of these frostnip or hypothermia symptoms in your pet, we recommend bringing him indoors immediately, warming him up with a blanket or a hot water bottle, and giving him warm fluids. In extreme cases, contact your vet or take them to the nearest pet emergency hospital.

Check Vehicles for Pets Trying to Stay Warm

During the cold winter months, outdoor cats will often seek shelter is any warm space they can find, including the inside of a car engine or wheel well. Unfortunately, critters that find shelter under the hoods of cars can be injured or killed when the car’s engine is started. Before starting your car, don’t forget to pound on your hood, slam your door, and check underneath your vehicle to see if there are cats trying to keep warm.

Have another pet safety tip for cold weather that you want to share? Let us know in the comments below!

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