Pets in Cold Weather
Without protection from the elements, dogs and cats can develop frostbite or hypothermia. At the very least they can be cold and miserable. The Animal Care Center urges you to take these simple precautions so that you can keep your pets cozy no matter what the winter throws our way.
In cold weather, keep your pets away from antifreeze solution, and promptly clean up any antifreeze that spills. Antifreeze is attractive to pets and is deadly, even in very small amounts.
If your pet grows a thick coat of hair for the winter, you want to make sure it doesn't get matted. Wet, matted hair can lead to diseases of the skin because the dead hair traps dirt and debris. A conditioner for the coat after shampooing a pet will help both coat and skin stay in top shape during Albuquerque's dry winters. Our winter air can be extremely drying, and even pets that never set a paw outdoors can get dry itchy skin. Giving pets a B complex vitamin that contains fatty acids will help keep their skin from drying out. These vitamins are usually available at pet supply stores. While many dogs and cats love romping through the snow, they'll occasionally develop ice balls between their toes that can lead to frostbitten feet. You should regularly trim out the long hair between the toe pads so they don't become the focus of ice-ball formation. If your pet already has ice-balls between his toes you can melt them quickly with a hair dryer. Hold the dryer about 6 inches away and keep it moving until all the ice is melted. Make sure you keep it on a low setting so you don't burn them.
Consider their breed. Not all pets are equally at home in the cold. While a Sheepdog or an Akita might be comfortable outside, a Miniature Pincher, Boxer or Yorkie might get chilly even when it's balmy. On particularly cold days, your pet may appreciate being bundled up before he goes outdoors. Breeds that have thin coats such as Boxers, Dobermans, etc., may need this extra protection. Dog sweaters and coats may be purchased at pet supply stores. Check with your veterinarian if you're not sure if your pet can handle the winters outside.
If your pet lives outside, he'll burn up a lot more calories in the winter just trying to stay warm. If your pet is going to spend time outdoors, you may need to increase his calorie intake by 25 to 50 percent. They need those extra calories not only for energy demands but also to get a thicker coat. When the temperature drops, water freezes. An animal can only go 20 hours without water before becoming dehydrated. Animal Services Division recommends providing fresh water frequently throughout the day to keep the bowl full. You can buy an electric warming device at your pet supply store that will keep the water liquid on even the coldest days. Just be careful not to run an electrical cord where the animal can chew it.
Even if the thermometer reads a balmy 25 degrees, a breeze can make it feel a lot colder than it is. Be prepared with a comfy house for your pet when it is blowing. Dogs and cats need warm places where they can go to escape the cold.
Size is right! If the doghouse is too big, the dog's body temperature isn't going to keep him warmed up when weather turns cold. It should be big enough for the dog to get in, turn around, and lie down. Your pet supply store can help you get the correct size.
Build it tight! To keep your pet cozy, the house should be well-built and water proof. Line it with some kind of easily cleaned, warmth retaining lining like straw or wood shavings to keep down the heat loss through the floor and also give him something he can burrow down into to build up warmth.
Raise it high! The doorway should be high enough off the ground to prevent water from flowing in. It should also be fairly small to minimize heat loss in the cold. To make it even more secure, you may want to hang a plastic flap or get a doggie door to keep the wind from whipping through. In addition, it should have a roof over the porch to provide protection from the direct sunlight, snow, rain and other elements.
For all pets, the most lethal winter hazard is parked in your driveway-and it kills without moving an inch. Antifreeze is extremely toxic to pets and has a sweet taste that pets enjoy. The best precaution is never leave antifreeze lying around, either in an open container or in puddles under the car. An antifreeze that's safer for pets contains propylene glycol instead of ethylene glycol. While it may upset your pet's stomach or cause mild nervous system reactions, it's unlikely to cause the lethal kidney failure that products containing ethylene glycol cause. Do an engine check. During the cold months many outdoor cats and wild animals will creep into the engine compartment of cars to take advantage of the "central heating" and then get hurt or killed when someone turns the key. Before starting the car in the morning, you may want to check under the hood for visitors. It only takes a minute and you could save an animal's life.