If you have a dog that spends most of its time romping in your backyard, or a kitty that whiles away the day in a sunny patch on the front porch, winter's arrival may be a rude awakening. Sure, your precious pets are covered in fur. But many just aren’t equipped to be out in frigid temperatures for prolonged periods.
So how can you make sure your four-legged friends are warm and well-cared for when the mercury dips? WebMD talked to veterinarians and pet owners and got their top tips on winter safety for pets, from protecting pets that spend a lot of time outdoors to tips on getting your pooch to potty outside when wintry winds blow.
Exposure to winter’s dry, cold air and chilly rain, sleet and snow can cause chapped paws and itchy, flaking skin, but these aren’t the only discomforts pets can suffer. Winter walks can become downright dangerous if chemicals from ice-melting agents are licked off of bare paws.
Says Dr. Louise Murray, ASPCA Director of Medicine, “During the winter, products used as de-icers on sidewalks and other areas can lead to trouble for our animal companions, potentially causing problems ranging from...
We may admire our pets' plush coats, but as beautiful as fur is, it's not a perfect insulator, especially when it's very cold.
In winter, pets can suffer from the weather extremes "for the same reason that mountain climbers can get hypothermia no matter what type of protective clothing they are wearing," says Oregon veterinarian Marla J. McGeorge, DVM. "Mammalian systems for heat retention and regulation can be overwhelmed by excessive cold."
And, if an animal's coat gets wet, the fur loses much of its insulating ability, McGeorge tells WebMD. For cats and dogs with short fur, the protection is even more minimal, "sort of like wearing a T-shirt when it's below freezing." Your pet's toes, nose, and ears are even more vulnerable to chilly temps.
That's why, in winter, pets need protection from extreme temperatures, which includes warm, dry, draft-free shelter; plenty of food; and lots of water. Take precautions any time the temperatures drop below freezing, says Jean Sonnenfield, DVM, an Atlanta veterinarian. And remember, if it’s too cold for you, it’s probably too cold for your pet.
Pet Winter Safety: Should Your Pet Dress for the Weather?
We don coats to face the frigid temps, so it seems natural to think that coats for dogs and cats might offer them similar protection from the elements. The vets we talked to agreed -- to a point.