Dr. Julie Damron

3 minutes reading time (548 words)

The cold facts on pet safety

By Dr. Julie Damron
Stockton Record November 1st, 2008

The cold weather is a significant health concern for both your outdoor and indoor pet. This is especially true if your pet is older or has an underlying disease, as its body defenses are weaker. And as with people, joint and bone issues tend to worsen in the cold weather as well. If your pet has short hair or a thin coat, it shouldn't be housed outdoors. And when you do take it outside, it should wear a sweater or jacket.

There are a number of things to consider for outdoor pets. The most significant issue is maintaining their body temperature. A normal temperature for a dog or cat ranges between 99 and 102 degrees Fahrenheit.

As the ambient temperature cools, an animal's body has to work harder to maintain warmth. If it fails to do this, hypothermia, or a body temperature of lower than 95 degrees Fahrenheit, can develop. Hypothermia is a serious, life-threatening condition that can lead to organ failure, brain damage, and death. It can be prevented by providing shelter that gives protection from the rain, as well as insulation from the cold.

Garages are one option, although you may still need to provide additional warming equipment, depending on how insulated your garage is.

Dog houses are available in many materials that are both insulating and weather resistant. It is better to raise this housing off the ground for both warmth and to prevent moisture build up.

Bedding provides additional warmth and comfort. For those who want to take it a step further, beds are available with heating elements, including beds with special outdoor heating units.

These products can be purchased at pet stores or online.

If you have a swimming pool, it is advisable to block the access during the winter months. An animal's body temperature can drop very rapidly when the pet is submerged in water. The risk of hypothermia after swimming is compounded when the outdoor temperature is low.

Also be sure that your outdoor pet has clean, fresh water. Your pet's water supply can freeze during cold winter nights, even in sunny California.

Check your pet's water bowl at least twice a day to make sure the water is suitable for drinking. Avoid metal bowls during the cold months, because they absorb the cold faster and the water is more likely to freeze.

Make sure you are feeding a high-quality diet to both your outdoor and indoor companions. And expect your pets to consume more calories when it is cold.

There are some things to consider for your indoor companions as well, such as making sure your pet doesn't get too warm. Animals don't sweat the way that people do. The main way their bodies get rid of heat is through panting. If you keep the heat on, expect to see your pet panting and drinking more water. Also, be careful with pets and getting too close to a fire or heaters. Animals can easily get burned if their skin comes in direct contact with these sources of heat. To prevent injury, keep your pet's bedding at least 2 feet from any of these warming devices.

And whether you have an indoor or outdoor pet, remember as the temperature falls that they still need lots of love.

Contact Julie Damron at .

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