The Dangers of Winter Weather

Dec 26, 2019   Tracey Aston   Health & Wellness

Some of us love it, some of us hate it, but regardless of how we feel about winter, it's coming. Just like humans, pets have their own unique take on the colder weather – some will thrive in the colder temperatures and revel in the snow, while others will stand at the door and protest potty time if it means putting one toe into the white stuff.

 How long a pet can stay outside in the colder weather depends on many things, like their breed, coat type and density and health. Double coated and long haired dogs have a higher tolerance for the dipping temperatures. Young puppies and senior dogs with arthritis will have a lesser tolerance for the cold weather. Pets with other health concerns such as heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease or Cushing's disease can have difficulties regulating their body temperature. 

Even though some breeds can tolerant the lower temperatures better than others, that's not to say they are without risk in the winter.  Frostbite and hypothermia are serious concerns for any pet. Susceptible areas like ears, tails and paw pads are the first areas affected. Signs of possible hypothermia include shaking, shivering, weakness, whining or crying, slowing down or continuously laying down.  Frostbite can be harder to detect but limiting outdoor time can reduce the risks. Pets play should be limited to potty breaks and very short walks if the temperatures are below freezing.

Our pet's paw pads take the brunt of the ice, snow and frost and it's important to pay close attention to our pet's feet during this time. Exposure to cold temperatures and snow increase the risk of frostbite and deicing salt can cause irritation or burns. Applying an all-natural wax, such as Mushers Paw Protection wax to pet's paws can provide a much needed barrier to keep out the elements. Always make sure to  wipe down a pet's feet when coming inside, antifreeze, deicer and road all are all extremely dangerous to our pets and leaving even residue on their paws to make them extremely ill if they lick it.  While wiping down their feet, check for any ice or snow stuck in between the paw pads. Clipping the hair around the paw pads – not between – can reduce the chance of ice balls forming. 

Beware of ice! Even pets can slip on ice and become injured. Senior pets with arthritis will have even more difficult maintaining their balance on icy surfaces.  Never allow a pet to run onto a frozen body of water like a lake or a pond, if it the water looks solid, it most likely isn't and will crack under the weight of a pet. A pet that falls through the ice risks not only drowning but hypothermia, even if they're lucky enough to get out quickly. 

The warmer dry air inside our homes keeps us comfy but can cause our pets to develop dry skin. Daily light brushing will help move the natural oils through the coat and adding coconut oil to your pet's food and help with dry, flaky itching winter skin. 

Remote starters can be deadly to outside or feral cats that may have climbed into an engine for warmth.  If you absolutely have to use the remote starter, always honk the horn a few times before starting the car. 

If you are taking care of a feral colony or know of one around your neighborhood, a storage bin, tote or even Styrofoam containers can be turned into a winter weather shelter. 

Cut a doorway six inches by six inches in one of the long sides of the bin or tote. Cut the opening so that the bottom of the doorway is several inches above the ground to prevent flooding.

Line the floor of the bin with a piece of Styrofoam

Line each of the four interior walls of the bin with a piece of the Styrofoam. Again, perfect cuts are not necessary. 

Cut out a doorway in the Styrofoam interior wall where the doorway has already been cut out in the storage bin

Measure the length and width of the interior space and place a second, smaller-size bin into the open interior. This bin should fit as snugly as possible against the Styrofoam wall pieces. Cut a doorway into this bin where the doorways have been cut into the Styrofoam and outer bin.

Stuff the bottom of the interior bin with straw or other insulating material to provide both insulation and a comfortable spot to lie down.

Cut out a Styrofoam “roof” to rest on top of the Styrofoam wall pieces.

Cover the bin with its lid.

For added protection from element, you can place a brick or something heavy on the lid to keep it from blowing over. 

Winter can be a fun and safe time for all family members with a little forethought and precautions taken. On extremely cold days or days where shortened walks are not enough, our article Winter Activities for Pets is full of fun things to do while still staying warm inside. 

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