Health & Wellness

Cold Weather Tips for Pet Owners

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Although an animal has a fur coat, that does not mean it can be left outside in the cold for long periods of time. Credits: Amy Schetelich
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NEW JERSEY -- As snow conditions are expected to hit Madison this weekend, residents are reminded to keep in mind that pets feel the cold, too.

The Plainfield Area Humane Society (PAHS) has shared information on ways to help your pets get through the winter safely and in good health. Just because your pet has fur, that does not mean it can tolerate long periods of cold.

Forcing your pet to stay outside in cold weather could lead to serious health problems. If you feel cold enough to go into the house, your pet probably is ready to go in, too.

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Just like people, older pets who have arthritis and joint issues experience more pain in cold weather. Although every animal reacts to cold weather differently, the best advice is to pay attention to them and watch for signs of discomfort.

Cold weather tips to keep pets safe

  • When the thermometer dips below freezing, keep dogs and cats indoors as much as possible. If your pet must stay outside, provide a warm shelter, raised a few inches off the ground, with the opening facing away from the wind and covered with a flap. The shelter should be large enough for the animal to stand and turn around, but small enough to retain its body heat. 
  • If your pet is outdoors for extended periods when temperatures are below freezing (32o F), be alert for signs of distress. Shivering is a sign that the body temperature is dropping. Bring shivering pets inside.
  • Pets that are very young, very old or beset with health problems are more vulnerable to the cold (just like humans).
  • Don’t leave your pet in an unheated vehicle for extended periods of time.
  • A pet can pick up rock salt and other melting chemicals in their paw pads. Try doggie booties or rubbing petroleum jelly onto paws before going outside to protect from salt and chemicals.
  • Make sure your pet has clean, unfrozen drinking water. Drinking from puddles can be deadly if the water contains antifreeze or other harmful chemicals. Antifreeze is particularly dangerous because it has an attractive scent and taste for animals and is extremely poisonous. A first sign of such poisoning is a pet that appears drunk. Ingesting anti-freeze can kill an animal in four to eight hours. If you suspect an animal has ingested antifreeze, immediately contact your vet.  

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