I have written a previous blog post about this, but since today is the first serious cold front of the year for us in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, it bears repeating- our pets get cold too, just like us! Just because they have fur does not mean they don’t get cold, and we need to take extra precautions for them in the winter, just like we do for ourselves. According to the National Weather Service forecast, the low temperature on Thursday night is going to be very close to freezing- 38 degrees! We all know (or should know) that we have to protect our pets from extreme heat in the summer, so we leave them extra water and bring them inside during the hottest part of the day, or at least make sure they have shade, and never leave them inside a hot car. Winter here might not bring any snow or ice, but there are similar precautions that we need to take for our pets in winter as well as summer. You know how you start complaining about how cold it is if it gets below 70 degrees? That’s because we’re not used to cold weather here, and our pets aren’t either!
Despite the huge amount of fun the pets in these photos are having, there are precautions we all need to take for our pets in winter, and people who do live in places with ice and snow need to be even more careful than us in South Texas. So if you will be travelling with your pets to any colder climates, keep those extra snow and ice tips in mind.
- In cold weather (even here), pets should only be outside for short amounts of time- to relieve themselves and for a walk/exercise. Otherwise, they should be indoors.
- If they must be outside, purchase or construct a solid shelter for them. The shelter should be at least a couple of inches raised up off the ground, because otherwise their body heat will be absorbed into the cold ground. Place warm blankets or towels inside, and make sure they have access to unfrozen water. Do not use a heating pad, as this can cause fires.
- Your pet will be spending more time indoors. Make sure your house is pet-proof, and do not use indoor space heaters. Space heaters are very dangerous and can cause fires even without a pet. A pet can easily knock it over and cause a fire.
- The temperature inside a car while it’s off is always more extreme than the temperature outside. Just like your car is a dangerous oven during the summer and you should never leave your pet in one, your car is also like a freezer during the winter, and becomes even colder than the temperature outside. So for the same reasons, you should never leave your pet in an empty car during the winter.
- Your pet should never be wandering around without an ID tag and microchip anyway, but this is even more important in the winter. Ice, snow, and cold weather can mask the scents that they would normally use to find their way home. Make sure your pet is microchipped for easy identification if he/she becomes lost.
- Cold weather exacerbates arthritis and other health problems. If your dog is arthritic or elderly, he/she will be much more sensitive to cold weather. It’s a good idea to take your pet to the vet for a regular checkup before winter sets in.
- Ice can form on the sensitive pads of their paws and become very painful, so pets in icy climates need to wear booties when they’re outside. If they’re not wearing booties, you need to wipe and dry their paws as soon as they come inside.
- Lots of poisonous chemicals are used for de-icing streets and sidewalks, and these chemicals can get on your pet’s paws and fur. If your pet has been on an area that’s been de-iced, you need to wipe their paws, legs, and belly when they come inside, to clean off the chemicals.
- Jackets are also recommended for dogs that have short-haired coats (i.e., that aren’t very fluffy/furry).
- Also, although dogs and cats “bounding through the snow” are cute and look like they’re having fun, it’s actually very bad for their leg and hip joints, so you should not allow them to do it. They can even become stuck if the snow is deeper than they are tall. If you need to, shovel a path in the snow for them.
- And finally, your pet burns extra calories just trying to keep warm in winter, so you should feed them a little bit extra during colder weather.
- We also need to take extra precautions for stray cats and dogs. They live a hard life out on the streets, and will seek warmth wherever they can find it. Unfortunately, this often means underneath or inside the engine of a car. When you’re getting into your car in the morning, you should always check underneath it and even bang on the hood, to scare away any animals that might be underneath or inside.
- If you have any regular feline visitors, you can construct a simple shelter for them out of a cardboard box and towels.
The changes that come with winter are fun and a nice break from the usual heat, so as long as we take these extra precautions, we and our furry family members can all enjoy it together!