Fall brings cooler weather and depending on your location, your ‘fall’ can be just as wet as spring. As we get further into November, we may begin to experience early winter weather climates. Though some of our pets might have a fur coat, they still need our help to stay warm once the temperature starts to drop. We want to remind you that as you prepare yourself for the cold to keep your pet in mind, too. We’ve provided you with a few tips to ensure safety and happiness as colder weather settles in!
Get a wellness exam
Fall is a great time for your pet to have a wellness exam. With the cooler temperatures, some conditions such as arthritis, heart disease, and other medical conditions may flare-up. Some of these conditions can keep your pet from maintaining a decent body temperature making them prone to developing hypothermia, so it is a good time to make sure they are ready and prepared before winter officially arrives.
This is also a great time to ask about any annual vaccinations or treatments your pet may need. Be sure to voice any questions or concerns on how best to care for your pet once it gets colder.
If it is too cold for you, it’s too cold for them! Just like you, your pet’s temperature tolerance varies based on coat, body fat, activity level, general health, and even personality. Pay attention to your pet’s tolerance and adjust accordingly.
Although some pets are conditioned for that winter cold, veterinarians agree that once the temperature drops to 20 degrees Fahrenheit all pets should be brought indoors. For young animals and short-haired friends, bring them inside or limit their outdoor time significantly if the temperature reaches 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Some pets prefer not to ‘go’ when it is cold outside, so it may be a good idea to invest in indoor potty pads if your pet can’t weather the cold!
Bracing the great outdoors
Sometimes winter walks are unavoidable. If you know you are going out, grab your coat and grab one for your pet, too! Remember, animals do not have to be outside for a long time for them to get cold as they are in closer contact with the ground. All pets should be covered when they go outdoors and we urge you to buy them a coat, sweater, and booties, but check to make sure the clothing does not impede their vision, ability to move or breathe before buying. Coats should cover from the base of the tail to the belly.
Allow your pet to keep their winter coat if your dog has long shaggy hair, but consider trimming him slightly to minimize the chance of ice, salt crystals, and de-icing chemicals from sticking to his coat.
Many cities will begin to prepare for icy conditions and use de-icing agents to keep the roads and sidewalks safe. Some of these chemicals can be harmful to your pet, so wash and wipe down your pet’s legs, feet, and belly as much as you can when you return home after every walk to ensure your pet’s safety. Check your pet’s paws frequently for signs of cracks or bleeding and any other cold-weather injuries or damage. Booties are a great way to not only keep your pet dry and warm but also to provide great coverage.
If your pet is going to be outdoors unattended, provide him with adequate shelter. The shelter should be solid in structure and the floor should be elevated off the ground to minimize heat loss. Provide thick bedding and change it regularly to provide a warm and dry environment. Do not use space heaters or heat lamps as this increases the risk of burns and fire (this includes the use of heated blankets). Make sure your pet has access to unlimited access to fresh, non-frozen water.
Some of us may park our cars outdoors and strays can use this as their temporary shelter through the night. Be sure to bang on the hood of the car or honk to startle any sleeping animals that may have sought refuge near the engine of your car before starting it up.
As mentioned before, when you return from any adventures outdoors even if just the backyard, check your pet’s belly, paws, and legs for any signs of cold weather damage and be sure to dry him off properly.
Provide comfortable sleeping spaces with added blankets or cloth for warmth. Consider moving bedding away from doors, windows, or areas where cold drafts could reach them.
Space heaters are common indoors once the cold sets in, but use them with caution as heaters can easily burn your pet or potentially start a fire if knocked over.
Many of us may use coolant or antifreeze to keep our cars running smoothly as the cold sets in. Store these chemicals far out of reach of pets as they are highly toxic to cats and dogs even in the smallest amount. Clean up spills immediately and contact ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435 if you think your pet has consumed any harmful substances.
Many pets can get loose or lost during the colder months and the weather may prevent them from finding their way back home. Make sure your pet has a well-fitted collar with up-to-date information. Microchipping is a great permanent way of identifying your pet, even if their collar is lost, so make sure your registration information is always updated.
As we prepare for the colder weather, include your pet in your plans. Harsh winter weather can bring blizzards, outages, and in some events, you may need to have a disaster kit prepared. Ensure you have enough food, water, and medicine for your pet to last at least 5 days in addition to your own preparedness. Keep an eye on the forecast and plan accordingly, contact your veterinarian for more information on how to keep your pet safe from the cold.