Hypothermia Symptoms in Dogs and Cats
Frostbite Signs in Dogs and Cat
Frostbite happens when a part of your pet's body freezes. For cats, that may involve the paws, tail, or ears; for dogs, the tail, ears, foot pads, or scrotum. Severe winter weather, especially when windy or humid, can lead to frostbite. Watch for:
Snow Day Preparation for Pets
If you have a dog that spends most of its time romping in your backyard, or a kitty that whiles away the day in a sunny patch on the front porch, winter's arrival may be a rude awakening. Sure, your precious pets are covered in fur. But many just aren’t equipped to be out in frigid temperatures for prolonged periods.
KEEP WARM: Fur Isn't Flawless. We may admire our pets' plush coats, but as beautiful as fur is, it's not a perfect insulator, especially when it's very cold. In winter, pets can suffer from the weather extremes "for the same reason that mountain climbers can get hypothermia no matter what type of protective clothing they are wearing," says Oregon veterinarian Marla J. McGeorge, DVM. "Mammalian systems for heat retention and regulation can be overwhelmed by excessive cold." And, if an animal's coat gets wet, the fur loses much of its insulating ability, McGeorge tells WebMD. For cats and dogs with short fur, the protection is even more minimal, "sort of like wearing a T-shirt when it's below freezing." Your pet's toes, nose, and ears are even more vulnerable to chilly temps.
Provide warm, dry, draft-free shelter, plenty of food and lots of water. If it's too cold for you, it's too cold for your pet.
NO COATS FOR CATS: If they will tolerate them, fantastic! Generally speaking, cats hate coats. They are best used on dogs. Either way, coats don't mean that they can stay outside and take the snow storm. Coats should be used like we use them, to endure the cold temperatures when we have to.
TRANSITION OUTDOOR CAT TO INDOOR: Feral, abandoned, and lost cats: Many of us do our best to care for these cats year-round, but winter can be an especially tough time for an outdoor-only feline. Once the cat is accustomed to coming inside for food, start giving meals inside. Close the door or window while the cat is eating, but open it immediately if she gets panicked and wants out. The goal, McGeorge says, is to gradually let the cat see that coming indoors is safe and comfortable. Remember that any cat kept inside needs stimulation, says Wynn, author ofManual of Natural Veterinary Medicine. So make sure your indoor environment offers lots for your cat to do. Wynn suggests regular play with laser pointers and cat toys, as well as cat trees and catwalks.
FOR THE OUTDOOR ONLY CAT: Some cats just won't be contained! Providing shelter for cats in cold weather doesn't have to be hard. You can use an already-manufactured pet house, a wooden box, even a cardboard box. Insulate all sides of the shelter with foam board, old blankets, or plastic, then line the bottom with an old sleeping bag, coats, fleece, even inexpensive hay. No matter what you use, "check the bedding regularly," Sonnenfield says. Dirty, wet bedding could literally be the death of your cat. So each morning when you check kitty's water to be sure it isn't frozen, also check the bedding to make sure it's dry.
Try to place the shelter in a garage, covered porch, or beneath a carport, all of which can provide a few additional degrees of much-needed warmth. And be sure to raise the refuge off the ground to keep the cold from leeching up through the shelter's bottom while giving your feline friend a sense of security.
IMPORTANT REMINDERS AND TIPS:
Tip # 1: Beware of cats sheltering under cars. In cold weather, cats will seek shelter anywhere they can. Even if you haven't run your car in days, a cat may still seek the nominal protection found in your car's engine compartment.
That's why McGeorge says to, "Always bang on the hood of the car if it is parked outside or even in a garage if your cat has access to it." You can also try giving your car's horn a quick toot or two to shoo kitties away.
Tip # 2: Antifreeze is deadly. Antifreeze is thick, very sweet, and can be irresistible to some pets. "During the winter, the most common toxicity we see is from antifreeze," Sonnenfield says. And it doesn't take lapping up much antifreeze to kill an animal. Antifreeze can be deadly to a pet if the pet is not treated aggressively soon after ingesting it.
Tip # 3: Walking pets in winter? Get reflective. During winter's darker days and longer nights, pets can be hard to see. That's why Sonnenfield recommends reflective collars. Some message board members also give a thumbs up to collars, tags, and leashes embedded with LED lights and blinkers.
PROTECT THE OUTDOOR ONLY DOG: Take similar steps for dogs as I explained for the outdoor cat.
ENCOURAGE POTTY BREAKS: One of the things we see most is patients with UTIs during the winter because of the pets who do not want to pee in the snow. So they hold it. Ouch!