Brr! Cold Weather Pet Tips
As winter approaches, we want to make sure our four-legged friends are safe from the elements. After all, people can bundle up, but our pets can’t add extra layers on a whim. During the winter a change of sun exposure and sunlight will affect your pet’s hair growth, and stimulate a thicker coat. This adds some protection during the cold seasons, but for dog breeds with thin or short hair, cold weather poses a threat (e.g., greyhounds, Italian greyhounds, whippets and boxers). Keep in mind that underlying medical problems (like an underactive thyroid or “hypothyroidism,” skin disease, cancer, immune-related diseases) or certain medications (e.g., heart medication, diuretics, and steroids) prevent your pet from having a normal metabolism and being able to thermoregulate appropriately.
An important consideration as temperatures drop is wind chill. Wind chill, which is always lower than air temperature, is the perceived decrease in temperature felt due to the effects of wind and airflow. Keep in mind that the temperature alone shouldn’t guide you on cold weather threats, but rather, the overall temperature after accounting for wind chill should be what guides you. So if it’s 30°F out and you want to go walk your dog, go for it. Just keep in mind that it may feel colder than that and your pet may need some extra protection (e.g., booties or dog sweater/jacket).
As I’m based out of Minnesota (where it’s winter 6 months out of the year), I know how severe cold injuries can be to pets. Here are some cold weather tips to keep your pet safe:
If your dog doesn’t have a thick, plush, hair coat consider a winter jacket when temperatures drop below 20°F. Make sure the jacket is snug and that your male dog doesn’t urinate on the bottom belly strap (which can then worsen frostbite or cold injury).
Watch where you salt
While ice salt is only mildly poisonous to dogs, it can cause irritation to the skin, paws, and gastrointestinal tract when directly ingested. Make sure to use pet-friendly ice melters (which don’t contain salt). More importantly, since you don’t know what your neighbors have put down, make sure to use a damp cloth to wipe off your pet’s paws after coming into the house.
If your dog lives outside, make sure he has
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Justine has more than 18 years of experience in the veterinary industry and is a board-certified emergency critical care veterinary specialist and toxicologist as well as the CEO and founder of Vetgirl. She is also a founding member of IDEXX’s Pet Health Network team.