Just a couple things to keep in mind during the cold weather to keep your pets comfortable and healthy. First things first, your pet should be kept inside. Especially young and geriatric dogs and all cats. Young and geriatric animals have a hard time thermoregulating (maintaining a normal body temperature). They may even require extra measures to keep them warm; sweaters, heating pads, etc. Cats are just a bit more sensitive to the elements. Even feral or outdoor cats may take shelter in your car wheel wells or seek warm areas when the temperature starts dropping. How long your pet can stay outside depends on your pet. Your pet should be slowly acclimated to the cold and then depending on how they handle it can stay outside for increasingly longer periods of time. Bear in mind if it’s really too cold for you to tolerate being outside, it’s probably the same for your pet. Frostbite can happen to your pets too! Pay attention the paws and the tips of their ears, those are usually the first affected areas.
In August of 2015 the state of Illinois passed legislation that makes it illegal to leave your pet outside in extreme temperatures which entails both hot and cold weather. While I don’t think there are any laws like this in Indiana quite yet, you can still report pets that you think are being neglected to the local authorities. Again, they are prone to the same health issues that we are when exposed to these extreme temperatures.
With cold weather also comes the increased use of rock salt and antifreeze. Antifreeze is very, very toxic to animals. The lethal dose is small and it gets into the blood stream rather quickly. Should they actually come in contact or ingest it, treatment absolutely needs to be started ASAP. Symptoms usually start with vomiting, drinking a lot and urinating a lot and then shortly after neurologic signs can start appearing; stumbling, knuckling on their paws, and seizures.
Rock salt can burn your pet’s paw pads and ingestion of a lot of rock salt can cause electrolyte imbalances. After bringing your pet in from a walk it is recommended to wipe their paws off to get any excess salt off and so they can’t lick it off. Pet safe rock salt is available for purchase. If your pet will tolerate it, winter boots can be useful, it can help avoid them from stepping in salt to start with, keep their paws warmer and help prevent the paw pads from drying out.
Remember to keep pets away from poinsettias and chocolate during the holidays too. If you have any questions at all about what is best for your pet, the staff at your local animal hospital is always there to help! And with the rise in 24 hour emergency animal hospitals, there is always somebody to call no matter if something happens at 3pm or 3am.