Cold weather tips for your pets

We have just come through a very rough spell of extremely cold weather and there may be more in our future.  Here is a quick refresher on some cold weather issues that may crop up for you and your pets.

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Not all pets have the same tolerance for cold as others, so be sure to treat your pet as an individual.  Of course large, double-coated dog breeds will handle the cold a lot better than small dogs or cats will.  Most dogs can habituate and tolerate temperatures as low as 45 degrees Fahrenheit, while some dogs do fine even near 32 degrees, but once the temperature drops lower than that, be careful of over-exposure or long duration of time in the cold.  Please keep in mind that indoor dogs and cats who are not used to cold temperatures will need to come back into the warmth sooner than those who spend a lot of time outdoors.
Keep your exotic and pocket pets away from drafts at all times and do not take them for rides in this weather – they will get cold quickly.
Cats and wild animals will sometimes seek warmth against a car’s engine.  When you park outside, it’s a good idea to bang on the hood of your car before starting it up in an attempt to scare away the potential inhabitants.
Do not leave your pet in the car unattended.  Sitting in the car in the freezing cold can be just as dangerous for pets as mid-summer heat.
Snow and ice can gather in your pet’s paws – be sure to wipe them when your pet comes inside to prevent ice balls from forming.
It’s also a good idea to wipe your pet down in case he or she picked up any de-icing salt while out, even if you don’t see any.  I wrote talked about the risk of ingestion in the December issue. (link)
Sweaters for dogs are not silly – they do a good job keeping pets warm and should be considered if your pet seems sensitive to the cold.
Snow eating – some dogs seem to obsess about eating snow – keep in mind that ingestion of large amounts can really bring down their core body temperature quickly, so please do not let them eat a lot of snow and bring them back indoors.
My final tip: nothing beats having a pet on your lap, so when you are cold and ready to wind down, spend some quality time petting your dog or cat – it’s good medicine for both of you!
Dr. Amy Hellard
West Chester Veterinary Care

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