Although many parts of the country have already been dealing with cold temperatures, snow and ice, New England has seen a relatively quiet winter to this point. That changed dramatically this last weekend with snow, ice, sleet, rain, single digit temperatures and, finally, blustery winds. For us humans, it is relatively straightforward. Add layers, heavy socks, scarves, thermals and dig out the “serious” winter coat. And of course, don’t forget the complaining about how miserable it is and how we can’t wait until Spring. (After all, Red Sox Spring Training starts in a mere 4 weeks, or two weeks after the Super Bowl) All part of the ritual of Winter in the Northeast. But what about our pets? To them, the cold and the weather doesn’t change much in their routine. They are still going outside, walking, running, hunting and essentially doing all the same things they do during the rest of the year. Sure, some cats may not ask to be let out as often or come in sooner just as some dogs may not be as keen on long walks. But generally, they are unaware of some of the risks of the extreme weather.
Just to be on the safe side, we should all be aware of a couple of basics. If you have a pet that spends a good bit of time outdoors, the extreme cold (25 F degrees and less) poses a different challenge. A usual water source may be frozen; windy conditions reduces the ability of a pet’s coat to keep them warm. Precipitation such as sleet, rain or snow may cause them to be more susceptible to hypothermia. Some pets with thicker coats, may be more resistant to the effects of cold but frostbite can still occur on extremities (especially ear tips). So how to best combat the cold for our pets? Outerwear for dogs is becoming more common and better designed. Rubber “booties” that use Velcro are tolerated by many pets and also prevents salt and chemical exposures to the bottom of the pet’s feet. Restricting outdoor time to walks that you, yourself, are participating in can help to give you a better idea of what the pet can safely and happily tolerate. Indoor time, even for pets that are primarily outdoors becomes absolutely critical in the extreme cold. Pets that do live outdoors should have shelter from the wind, a ready unfrozen water source, and constant or frequent observation and a heated environment to move to at the pet’s choice.
The above are just a few of the issues that we, as New England pet owners, need to be aware of now that winter has arrived. If you have any questions at all regarding what is and what is not appropriate for your pet in the winter, please feel free to call. The winter can be an enjoyable time for both you and your pet. Be vigilant and make sure that everyone is adequately prepared.