As the coldest month of the year settles in, your four-legged pal may be chilled and shivering, despite their fur coat. Their fur will shield them from some cold, but a typical house pet’s coat is not thick enough to handle temperatures outdoors for more than some quick exercise or a bathroom break. So, if you’re cold, your pet is cold, and it’s time to head inside before hypothermia or frostbite sets in. Here are six tips to ensure you understand your pet’s outdoor limits, and to help your furry pal remain cozy, warm, and safe this winter season.

#1: Bundle up when heading outdoors with your pet

You bundle up with boots, gloves, a hat, and a fluffy winter parka before heading outdoors, and you should do the same for your pet. Most pets don’t have thick enough fur to withstand the cold, especially if it’s snowing or sleeting. Search for a waterproof coat to protect them from the weather, along with properly fitted doggy booties. Your pooch may take some time to get used to wearing booties, but waterproof footwear will help keep their paws safe from sharp ice, freezing snow, and ice-melting chemicals.

#2: Keep dangerous chemicals out of your pet’s reach

Summer comes with a host of dangerous chemicals, such as insecticides and fertilizers, and winter also has its fair share of pet poisons. Watch for antifreeze leaks from your vehicle, as pets are attracted to this sweet substance that can rapidly lead to organ failure and death. Salt used to melt ice on your driveway, paths, and sidewalk can also be hazardous for your pet, especially if they lick the accumulated salt from their paws after a walk. Choose pet-friendly sidewalk salt instead of the more common types.

#3: Position your pet’s bed in a temperature-controlled area

Brisk winds can create chilly drafts, especially if your front door is opened frequently with your family’s comings and goings. Keep your pet cozy by placing their bed in a warm area away from doors and windows. Do not put the bed directly in front of a fireplace or space heater, however, because sparks can singe your pet, and space heaters can blow too much hot air directly onto sensitive pets. Young and old pets cannot regulate their body temperature as well as adult pets, so monitor their comfort level closely in harsh winter temperatures.

#4: Know hypothermia signs in pets

If your four-legged friend spends too much time outdoors in cold weather, especially if they have wet fur, they can rapidly succumb to hypothermia. As their body temperature drops, you may notice the following signs:

  • Strong shivering
  • Pale skin
  • Lethargy

If your pet appears hypothermic, take their temperature. A typical dog or cat temperature is between 100 and 102 degrees, with slight variations. A lower temperature can indicate your pet is suffering from hypothermia, so bring them indoors immediately. Wrap them in warmed blankets straight from the dryer, and place a wrapped hot water bottle next to their abdomen. Avoid laying your pet on a heating pad, as they may not be able to move when they become too warm. Monitor your pet every 10 minutes to ensure their temperature rises above 98 degrees.

#5: Avoid frozen water bodies when exercising your pet

Pets do not understand how treacherous ice-covered water can be, and may run out onto a pond or lake, only to fall through when the ice becomes too thin and weak. Snow can also hide frozen water and the thinness of the ice, and can be especially deadly for pets. Keep your pet leashed around ponds and lakes in the winter to prevent a fatal fall through the ice.

#6: Schedule a wellness visit with your Leawood Plaza Animal Hospital veterinarian

A variety of medical conditions in pets can lead to improper thermoregulation that leaves them unable to handle cold temperatures. If your pet seems particularly susceptible to chilly conditions, they may have an underlying metabolic disease that makes maintaining an appropriate body temperature difficult. Additionally, young and senior pets are generally more affected by extreme weather conditions, but ensuring they remain in peak physical health through routine wellness visits helps them combat the cold.

If your furry pal experiences a cold weather mishap, your Leawood Plaza Animal Hospital team is here for them. Give us a call for help.