Jan 06 2015



As the temperatures drop over the next weeks and months, it’s important to consider how much cold weather our pets can and cannot tolerate. Many people just assume that where there’s a coat there’s warmth, and this isn’t always true.
Like us, pets’ cold tolerance varies from pet to pet based on their breed, coat, body fat, activity level, and health. Elderly pets, especially those with arthritis and other joint problems, may have difficulty walking on snow and ice and will tend to feel the cold more readily. Pets with diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, or hormonal imbalances (such as Cushing’s disease) may have a harder time regulating their body temperature, making them more susceptible to problems from temperature extremes.
Just because a dog has a thick coat does not mean they can tolerate extreme temperatures – especially for extended periods of time. Remember, the majority of all dogs have little or no hair on their abdomens – and the smaller the dog, the closer they are to the snow and ice, or the cold ground. For the smaller breeds, such as Chihuahuas, Poodles and terriers, as well as some of the larger, shorthaired breeds like Greyhounds, Whippets, Doberman Pinschers, etc., they may do well with a sweater or coat. The coat or sweater should fit them well, and offer them free movement as well as the ability to use the bathroom freely.

If you can’t keep your dog inside all the time during cold weather, at least provide a warm shelter from the wind. Fill the shelter with wheat straw so they can snuggle down for warmth. They will need to have access to water that isn’t frozen.
Years ago we had an Igloo doghouse for our two dogs. They preferred being outside during the day, no matter how cold it was. So, when the temperature started to drop and stay cold, we bought wheat straw bales and built a bale shelter around the entire doghouse. Then we piled two bales high and three bales deep and made an entrance with a long hallway to keep the wind out. We stuffed straw under the house to help keep the warmth in. We placed a piece of plywood across the hallway bales and covered all of the exposed straw with a tarp to keep it from getting wet and mildewing. We filled the floor of the house and hallway with straw. I have to say that it was extremely comfortable in there. They loved it, and we knew that during the day when we weren’t home, they were warm and comfy.
For fresh water, we made a space for a fountain-type water bowl that flows constantly, and ran the power cord safely under the doghouse so they couldn’t get to it. We ran an extension cord into a PVC pipe and buried it a few inches beneath the soil for even more peace of mind.
When we came home, they were brought inside for the night. It worked very well for us, but they were very healthy and hardy, and had beautiful dense coats.

Our cat is an indoor/outdoor cat by choice. He is NOT declawed, or he would be an inside cat solely. We don’t allow him to stay outside when the temperatures are going down close to freezing, and never at night. He mostly hangs around on our porch, so we took an airline dog crate and wrapped it in a thick garbage bag to cover the vent holes. The house has a thick towel for a door, and inside we have a thick blanket and a pet-safe heating pad under the blanket that we keep on low. He loves it. Many times we have to physically go get him out of it to bring him in at night. In the past we have also filled old hot-water bottles and put them in for some extra warmth.
Many people have little cat doors where their cats can come into the garage and then into the house when they want to…everyone’s circumstances are different, but remember, animals are subject to hypothermia and frostbite, just like humans – so, better safe than sorry.

Every year we hear horror stories of people starting their cars only to discover that a stray cat or kitten has climbed up into the engine compartment for warmth. This is more common than you think. So, on those cold days when you need to drive somewhere, tap loudly on your hood a few times to chase out any cats that might be sheltering there.

Remember the big snow/ice storm last year? Many people were stranded on the roads, and more were locked in their homes for days, unable to get out at all.
If extreme weather is predicted, please be sure that you have an ample supply of food and medicine for your pets. You might even want to have some ice on hand if you feed canned food, just in case you lose power temporarily.

Truthfully, keeping your pets safe and warm through the winter is mostly common sense. Just be mindful of the risks and dangers and act accordingly. Your pets only have you to rely on to keep them safe and warm.

drkclark | Uncategorized

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