Many pet owners love spending time with their furry friends outside, but during the cold winter months pet owners must take special care to ensure their pets stay warm and healthy.
Dogs, cats and other large animal species need adequate defenses from the cold when they're outside.
"Making sure blankets are available and dry can be extremely helpful for this purpose," said Alison Diesel, lecturer at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. "Also, as with people, turning up the heat can help keep our pets warm, as well."
Simply keeping smaller pets inside during colder times is often the best strategy to protect them. But short exposure to the outside cold can be fine and is usually not detrimental to a pet's health.
"Dogs and cats shiver a lot like people. This action is used to help generate body heat in cold climates," said Diesel. "If your pet shivers while outside, shorten the length of your trips together to help reduce this trembling. Providing extra bedding, like blankets and towels, will also keep your pets warm and cozy."
For larger pets that cannot come inside, an adequate outdoor shelter is important to their comfort and safety. Dog houses and stables protect pets from cold winds and should have extra bedding (blankets, towels, hay, etc.) for additional warmth.
"An important thing to remember for outdoor pets is to make sure they always have a fresh supply of water," said Diesel. In sub-freezing temperatures, pet owners should regularly check the water supply to make sure it isn't frozen. Moving water sources, like fountains, are less likely to freeze.
Like people, pets can develop frostbite and hypothermia in colder climates. "Dehydration is a possibility, as well, if your pet's water source freezes over," said Diesel.
And, in much of the South and Southwest, even the "winter months" are not cold enough to cause serious problems for pets or even most large animals. Thicks coats usually suffice to protect from the cold.
"But on the rare occasion of a colder day, "said Diesel, "some other things could be considered."
Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University.