Pets and Cold Weather

If you’re on the East Coast, you probably experienced some part of the recent blizzard, caused by a historic bomb cyclone on January 3. In New England, we saw two feet of snow in one day and over 75-mile-an-hour winds. Needless to say, it was cold.

Unless you have a Samoyed or a Maine Coon, if it’s too cold for you, it’s probably too cold for your dog or cat. Yes, pets have fur and padded paws. Humans make up for their lack of fur and pads with clothes and shoes and gloves. So we’re about even in the winter.

Pets can experience similar problems to humans in the winter. These can be as simple as dry skin or as extreme as hyperthermia. And, like humans, issues can begin to arise minutes after being outside. Keep your furry friends in mind this winter. We want to avoid more stories about frozen pets.

Bring Your Pets Inside and Report Pets Left Outside

If you own a pet, keep them inside during the winter. Even without winter weather, outside life is a gamble.

  • Pets are more likely to get sick or have an accident.
  • They can catch things like distemper, rabies, fleas, and ringworm.
  • As safe as you are with your pet, you can’t control cars, neighbors, and wild animals.

Cats and dogs descend from predatory animals that survived for thousands of years outside. But domestic cats and dogs are not the same as their ancestors. A pug is a descendent of a wolf, but you wouldn’t leave one outside to hunt and live on its own.

If you see a pet left outside, report it to your local animal control or sheriff’s office. There are laws against animal neglect and abuse.

A Note about Adequate Shelter

Where I grew up, nearly everyone hunts and owns hunting dogs. I never knew an “inside” dog until I was a teenager. I’m happy to say times have changed, even in small towns. When I visit, I don’t see dogs chained up outside, left to brave extreme weather on their own.

If people do keep their dogs outside, they have elaborate kennels with shelters and various supplies for different weather conditions. When I talk to these people, they tell me that they bring them in during storms.

Various organizations have been raising awareness about domestic pets and adequate living conditions. Neighbors and animal lovers report people who neglect their pets.

However, this issue can get tricky. Shelters typically operate off of an “adequate shelter” rule. That is, does the animal have adequate shelter to withstand extreme weather conditions? Luckily, that’s not your job to assess. If you feel an animal is being neglected, take a few notes and report it.

Dry Skin and Cracked Paws

Cats and dogs also experience dry skin. If you’re finding dandruff in your pet’s fur or their paw is bothering, there are a couple of options for you.

  • Use a humidifier in your home. You can also boil water on the stove or bring your pet in the bathroom during your morning shower.
  • Use boots when walking your dog. Not only will it provide an extra layer between the cold, but it prevents salt and dirt from getting in their paws.
  • Rub petroleum jelly into cracked paws.
  • Wipe paws and legs off when your pet comes inside. Keep a towel by the door.
  • Add a fish oil to their diet. Be sure to buy it from a reputable pet food company and to follow the directions given.
  • Bathe dogs less in the winter.

Staying Warm

For some of us, it’s hard to stay warm in the winter, regardless of whether you’re outside or inside. If your pets show signs of discomfort in the winter, here are a few options.

  • Buy clothes for your small and/or shorthaired pets. I know you don’t want to be that kind of pet owner, but sometimes it can make a big difference.
  • If your dog doesn’t want to walk or use the bathroom in the cold, consider boots or a jacket that mitigate wetness or wind.
  • Don’t shave your pet during the winter.
  • Feed them a little extra each night.