Winter in northern climates presents a bevy of health hazards for pets. From antifreeze to snow blindness, the drop in mercury keeps pet owners on their toes.
How Cold Is Too Cold For Your Dog?
A common question this time of year is, “How cold is too cold for a dog?” The answer is a bit complicated, but thankfully, the good folks at Tufts University already developed a system for animal welfare officers to reference that we can utilise as a guide.
Much like the handy colour coded chart that my son’s teachers reference before making a decision regarding playground time in the winter, it factors in the outdoor temperature and other variables and lays the answers out in a simple system.
Of course, there are some caveats when it comes to cold weather safety. You can see those on the right hand side of the chart. Wet weather and breed of dog can tip the scale one or more points in either direction. Acclimation to the cold is an important factor, too. For instance, dogs who are training for the Iditarod in Alaska are conditioned to be in the cold over time. If you took an average Husky and dropped it off on an icy tundra, he would likely perish. If your dog is acclimated to cold weather, like many hunting and working dogs, his number on the TACC scale is different than if he’s used to lying in a warm bed all winter like my dog.
Cold Weather And Hypothermia In Dogs
Remember: Sometimes it’s simply too cold for pets to be outside, regardless of their breed. Prolonged exposure to dangerously cold temperatures can put pets in danger of frostbite and hypothermia, which occurs when the body is no longer able to sustain normal temperature. Symptoms of hypothermia in dogs range from weakness and shivering to inaudible heartbeat and trouble breathing, depending on severity.
If you do come across a pet that appears to be suffering from hypothermia, call the vet and move the animal to a warm area, then cover the pet with warm water bottles, blankets or towels. Heating pads can burn your pet, so put several layers between your pet and an electric heat source. Transport the pet to medical care as soon as possible.
As always, use common sense and go with your gut. If it’s a “lime green” kind of day, but you still feel like your pet will be too cold, keep him in! Remember, you are your pet’s best advocate—when in doubt, follow your heart.
With cold temperatures and icy surfaces, winter can be a dangerous time for pets.
Snuggling a furry heat source can be the antidote to a frigid day, but when that’s not enough you need extra heat sources to keep your pack toasty. If your furnace doesn’t cut it, consider your pet’s safety before taking action. These heating solutions can be hazardous:
Countless house fires are attributed to space heaters, so be sure yours comes equipped with safety features (like automatic shut-off when tipped over or in case of overheating). Heaters that use fuel pose a second threat: carbon monoxide poisoning. Use them in well-ventilated areas only.
They’re a convenient way to heat fingers when Jack Frost is nipping, but hand warmers can be deadly for pets. Many contain high concentrations of iron that can cause vomiting, bloody diarrhea, lethargy and abdominal pain if eaten. Severe cases can progress to show signs of cardiac involvement and liver failure. Vomiting may occur immediately after ingestion, but clinical symptoms can be delayed up to 12 hours. If your pet chows down on a hand warmer, don’t wait for symptoms to develop. Call your veterinarian or the pet poison hotline.
If you have an older home with large heat registers built into the floor, never make the area home base for your pet! Crates set up near floor vents have the potential to get very hot, and pets can (and do) succumb to heat stroke on even the coldest winter day.
Flickering flames can be too fascinating for furry friends to resist, but singed fur and skin burns can be the result. Be sure your fireplace is outfitted with a properly fitted safety screen.
Small breeds, short-haired dogs and those who have trouble keeping warm because of illness can benefit from wearing sweaters or coats in cold weather. But clothing can pose a hazard. Ensure a snug fit to avoid snagging on surroundings, and make sure the neck isn’t too tight. Clothing free from zippers and snaps is best, especially for dogs who are notorious chewers.
When the snowflakes start falling, it’s not unusual to see “flurries” in your pet’s fur. Forced air heating coupled with low humidity in your home can make for one flaky pet. If dry, itchy winter skin is making your pet uncomfortable, check out these tips:
Heal From The Inside Out
Omega-3 fatty acids contribute to overall skin health and are especially helpful at soothing dry skin. Supplements can be found in many forms, and some pet foods also contain these healthy fats. Not all supplements are created equally, though, so be sure to ask your vet which is her favourite.
Combat Dry Air
Using a humidifier in the rooms where your pet spends most of her time will add moisture to the air, keeping your pet’s skin (and yours!) from drying out.
Change Up Your Pet’s Grooming Schedule
Shampoos tend to dry out the skin, so consider cutting back (or cutting out) bathing for the winter. If you must bathe your pet, switch to a skin-calming shampoo, like one with colloidal oatmeal. In the winter, conditioners are a must. Choose a leave-on conditioner to hydrate the skin after shampooing and consider a leave-on spray conditioner for between bath times.
Brushing your pet has so many positive benefits. Not only does it strengthen your bond, it distributes oils around your pet’s body, naturally soothing the skin.