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What is Hypothermia?
It is important to know the risks and signs of hypothermia. Hypothermia is when an animal’s body temperature drops below its normal range. In dogs and cats, the average body temperature ranges from 99-102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. The degree of hypothermia can vary based on exposure.
Signs of hypothermia vary based on severity. You may notice shaking/shivering or weakness in your pet. If these signs are noted after being outdoors, wrap your pet in warm blankets and contact your local veterinarian for further instructions and recommendations.
The best way to avoid a serious situation like hypothermia, is to limit time outdoors in cold weather.
Tips to Stay Safe in Cold
In preparation for cold weather, it is not uncommon to come across chemicals designed to lower freezing thresholds. Salt is often laid on sidewalks, parking lots and roads to prevent ice from forming. If ingested, salt has the ability to cause problems in our companion pets. Signs of salt ingestion can include diarrhea, lethargy, vomiting, seizures and dehydration.
If you feel that your pet has ingested salt, it is important to seek your local veterinarian for monitoring and possible treatment. Additionally, salt may be irritating on paws. Try avoiding walking on freshly laid salt if possible. If your pet does walk through salt, it is recommended to rinse their paws thoroughly with water and dry well once arriving home.
Antifreeze is a liquid that is used to help regulate fluids in extreme temperatures. This is most commonly found in cars to protect engines from overheating or freezing. Antifreeze made from ethylene glycol has a sweet taste and can be enticing to companion pets, wildlife and even children. If this is ingested it can cause disastrous effects to the kidneys, and even lead to death. Due to the extreme toxicity of this product, even a small amount of ingested ethylene glycol could be problematic. Keep your 4-legged family members (and two-legged kids!) away from this chemical and appropriately dispose of the product immediately after use. Consider using antifreeze made from propylene glycol instead, which is non-toxic. If your pet has ingested antifreeze, immediately contact your local veterinarian who will likely have you call a pet poison helpline.
New seasons call for new looks! As cold weather replaces beach weather, consider leaving your companion’s coat long. Having a longer, thicker coat will act as a barrier to the elements. A thick coat will help protect your pet’s skin from drying out and provide warmth. Although you may opt to leave your companion pet’s coat longer, this doesn’t mean maintenance brushing and grooming shouldn’t occur. Matted fur can lead to discomfort and skin problems.
In the event that your pet does develop dry skin, contact your vet for supportive treatments, which may include hydrating shampoos and omega-3 fatty acids. Anytime your pet is bathed during the cold weather months, ensure that they are dry before being allowed to go outdoors.
Consider Winter Garments
We have seen it all, from rain coats to pajamas-our pets have options! A vest, jacket or shirt is an excellent way to provide your companion with added protection against the elements. If this is your pet’s first time wearing clothes, try to ease them into it! Make sure the clothing item fits well and doesn’t restrict mobility.
Booties are another way to protect your pet. Booties can be helpful in protecting your companion’s paws from salt, cold temperatures and possible lacerations from ice. Again, pets should be slowly introduced into wearing booties and they should never be worn without supervision.
Providing Support To Outdoor Animals
In cold conditions, it is advised to bring companion animals indoors. If it is too cold for you outdoors, it is likely too cold for your pet! If this is not an option, or if you are caring for a feral cat, there are a few tactics you can utilize to provide a safe and warm shelter.
There are a lot of options for outdoor shelters that are available for purchase at local pet stores. Typically, these should be draft-free, raised off the ground, and just small enough to house your companion. Having a small shelter will help trap heat.
A cooler lined with an insulation blanket can be a great makeshift shelter for a feral cat. Cut a small hole in the side just large enough for the animal to fit through. Resist the urge to place a blanket in the shelter as blankets may freeze. Instead, fill the cooler with a straw.
All animals need a constant fresh water supply-this can be difficult to achieve in freezing conditions. Consider purchasing a water heater to prevent water from freezing. These can be purchased at most pet supply stores. Additionally, placing a plastic ball in the water bowl will cause movement in the water’s surface, making it harder for the water to freeze.
Consider increasing the amount of food being fed to your outdoor companion. Maintaining body temperature in the winter requires more calories.
Adjust Your Walking Routine
Avoid walking your companion in the early morning hours and after dark. Walking in daylight hours will allow the ground to warm up, making walking conditions more comfortable.
Additionally, after coming home from walking, inspect your pet’s paws for signs of clumped snow or ice, and gently remove if noted. Dry any areas of wet fur which often will be found on the belly and limbs.
As our pet’s caretakers, ensuring their safety is our top responsibility. Utilizing the above tips will help allow you and your companion to enjoy the cold weather safely together!