It’s been unusually cold in the San Francisco Bay Area. I’ve been huddling in front of the heater, and Sanchez and Gina are cuddled in their dog beds, even more than usual. When the temperature begins to fall, pets will need a little extra care. I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Jeff Werber, a renowned veterinarian and pet parenting specialist who has dedicated his life to the care and protection of animals. Dr. Jeff provided these tips on everything you need to know to keep your pet warm, healthy, and safe all season long.
Most dogs with healthy skin have a great ability to insulate themselves. Their fur protects them during the cold and heat. But, smaller breeds have a larger surface area per body weight than larger breeds, so as a result they can lose more body heat to the surrounding environment than a big dog or cat. This is exactly why many veterinarians will recommend little “doggie sweaters” for dogs under 25 pounds. Without protection, they are in danger of being hypothermic. Next time you see a small dog wearing a sweater, don’t laugh. Instead, compliment their pet parent on taking good care of their dog. And, when temperatures drop to less than 20 degrees Fahrenheit, even the larger dogs may need some assistance.
2. Booties for dogs of all sizes
Freezing temperatures are not the only winter problem. Many cities and municipalities pour salt on the sidewalks and streets to help melt the snow and minimize the inherent slippery surfaces. This salt can be very irritating to the feet of our beloved dogs and cats. Dr. Werber highly recommends cleaning their feet after each walk to remove any residue. Better yet, try some booties (like Pawtectors®) to provide the necessary protection.
3. Heated water bowls
If you leave your pet outside during the day and the temperature drops below freezing, he won’t have access to drinking water when it turns to ice. Purchase a heated water bowl so that fresh water will be available to them anytime, no matter the temps. Another alternative is a lick-it that hooks up to a faucet. You’ll just need to teach your dog how to use it.
4. Provide shelter from the elements
If you have to leave your pet outside during the day, they must have a place to go to be protected from the wind. Even worse than the temperature is the wind chill factor. If their enclosure is small, they may not be able to move around enough to generate heat, and Dr. Werber has heard of many stories from his northern, eastern, and Midwestern colleagues of hypothermia in even larger dogs. His recommendation is to keep pets inside overnight, preferably in the house. Next choice is in a garage, barn, or shed. A small floor heater, placed out of harm’s way, can also do wonders.
5. Don‘t forget the cat
Cats can be very resourceful. On those very cold nights, they seem to find warm places to hide. One of those warm places is under the hoods of cars on top of the warm radiator. This suits them very well, and in most cases is probably a good choice. Unfortunately, however, the warm sleeping cat doesn’t have a prayer when that car is started up early in the morning and the poor feline becomes stuck in the fan belt. The injuries are often fatal. Dr. Werber has seen a few of these, and it wasn’t pretty. This should be reason enough to keep ALL cats indoors at night. Just in case you have feral cats in your neighborhood, it’s always a good idea to give a bang on the hood of your car before starting it in the winter months.
6. Be sensitive to your pet’s age
Personally, I’ve noticed that as Sanchez matures, he is less tolerant to temperature changes than when he was younger. When he was a puppy, I brought him to Oregon and he delighted in seeing snow for the first time and wanted to stay outside and play in it forever. However, now that he is 10 years old, he doesn’t want to be outside in freezing temperatures playing in the snow. Just as people are more sensitive to the elements as they mature, our pets can be the same.
Thanks to Dr. Werber for providing these great tips on helping prepare for the winter months ahead. If you have any additional tips for winterizing your pets, thanks for sharing them in a comment below. And thank you for sharing on Facebook (by clicking the F to the right of the main photo) so that other pet parents can keep their pets safe and warm during the colder weather.
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