Cold and wet weather can cause significant health problems and potentially death for your pets. When the temperature hovers around freezing, it is a serious concern for animals that live outside. I have had a few owners tell me that they have had cats freeze to death this winter. Very young, older, thin, or immunocompromised animals are at a much higher risk for the damaging effects of Winter. Please keep these guidelines in mind if you have dogs or cats that spend a significant amount of time outdoors.
Make sure your canines and felines have adequate shelter from the storms. They need an area that protects them from moisture, and is insulated from the cold and wind as well. Your garage can work well as good pet housing if it is insulated. There are several versions of dog houses available that are insulated. Igloo is a brand that I like because it is light weight, and durable, with good insulation and ventilation. There are also multiple types of beds with heating elements. Just make sure that your pet is never in direct contact with any heat source, and that the products are considered pet friendly. Human heating pads are not good because over time they can get too hot and severely burn your cherished companion. Also keep cords and wires out of reach from your buddies. Many animals are severely injured and some die each year from electrocution. Heat lamps can burn skin, or fall down and cause fires.
Water can easily freeze overnight. Heated water bowls do exist. Dogs and cats need access to fresh water daily. Check your pet's water bowls at least 3 times a day to make sure that his or her water is drinkable. Lack of water can cause multiple health problems. It also may stimulate your pet to roam in search of a viable water source. What they find may not be a palatable water source, and can bring them great harm as they may ingest liquids that are not water.
Antifreeze is toxic. We use antifreeze to keep our cars running well this time of year. But it is deadly for both dogs and cats, and only a small amount is needed. In cats, less than a teaspoon can cause irreversible damage; in dogs less than 2 teaspoons. This sweet tasting, green product contains ethylene-glycol, a chemical that can destroy your pets kidneys within 1-2 hours of consumption. Once you see symptoms of vomiting, poor balance, and low energy it is often too late to save your cat or dog. This is the most common cause of poisoning for dogs and cats in the United States. To prevent this horrible problem, purchase antifreeze that is propylene-glycol based because it is not as toxic, and watch out for pools of green liquid under cars or in driveways.
Several types of coats and sweaters are available to keep your pet warm this winter. Make sure any clothing that you purchase doesn't fit too tightly or restrict movement. Footwear is also available to keep your dogs feet protected from the elements.
If your pet is indoors please don't let them get too close to a fire, or sit directly on heating grills.
I wish you and your pets a happy, healthy holiday season.