As you might have guessed by now, we are all about the pets and pet care at the McAllen Public Library. Over the next few days, weather in the Rio Grande Valley is going to be very near freezing temperature, and below freezing with the wind chill factor. This means that you need to take extra precautions with your pets. If you are cold, they are even colder. Even though we do not have snow and ice like other parts of the country, the cold weather we do experience is still a danger to pets. Just like humans, your pets’ tolerance of cold weather depends on their size, body fat, fur thickness, and health. Short haired dogs are more sensitive to cold weather, but even long haired dogs can be in danger.
- The most important thing is to keep your dogs and cats inside as much as possible, especially at night when temperatures drop. In cold weather, dogs are happiest when they can go on short but frequent walks.
- There will most likely be no snow or ice locally, but there might be sleet. If there is sleet, or if you take your dog with you on vacation to any place that is colder, you need to check his/her paws to make sure that they are not cracked or injured due to ice. After a walk, you need to wipe the paws and fur to remove salt and other chemicals used for de-icing roads and sidewalks. If your dog will tolerate a jacket or even booties, you should consider using them.
- Another thing to keep in mind if you do take your pet anywhere there is snow, is that pets become lost much more easily when the ground is covered in snow and ice. They rely on their sense of smell for much of their navigation abilities, and snow and ice block the smell of familiar markers. So make sure your pet has a collar with identifying information and is microchipped. (Actually, make sure your pet is microchipped no matter what. All pets everywhere should be microchipped.)
- Elderly and arthritic dogs are especially in danger during cold weather, because cold air worsens the arthritis symptoms. Take your dog to the vet to make sure he or she is taking any necessary medications.
- If you care for outdoor cats that cannot come inside, there are still things you should do to protect them. In cold weather, cats unfortunately like to sleep in cars near the engine where it is warm. Before starting your car, bang on the hood to scare any cats away, and check underneath the car as well.
- For your outdoor cats, or dogs that must spend prolonged periods outside, you should construct a shelter. It should be large enough that they can stand up and turn around, but small enough to contain their body heat. It should also be a few inches off the ground, so that their body heat is not immediately absorbed into the cold ground. The entrance should be facing away from the wind.
- Just as you should absolutely never leave a pet or child in a hot car, you should also absolutely never leave a pet (or child) in a cold car. Just as the cars act like ovens in the heat, they act like refrigerators in the cold, and let the cold air build up.
- When your pet is inside, be extremely careful about space heaters and candles, because they can be knocked over by pets and cause fires. It is best to avoid candles completely.
For more tips about pet care in cold weather, check out the following sites: