Brrr! Birmingham is in the midst of a mighty big cold snap with temperatures running below freezing.
While it is causing most of us southerners to bundle up and avoid going outside, we aren’t the only ones hoping for warmer weather – our pets are too. Here are some ways to protect your furry friend from the cold and ensure they are happy and healthy this winter.
Be in tune
When owning a pet, it is important to be in tune to their needs. If you notice your pet whining, shivering, seems anxious, slows down or stops moving, seems weak or starts looking for warm places to burrow, get them inside as quickly as possible because these are all signs of hypothermia. If you suspect your pet has hypothermia or frostbite, consult your veterinarian immediately.
Check your vehicle
For an animal who’s outside during cold weather, a vehicle’s warm engine can be an appealing spot to hide. But it is a very dangerous, even deadly location for them to take shelter. Before starting your car, be sure to check for animals. Look under your car, bang on the hood, even honk the horn. This will encourage any animals who have taken refuge under or inside your car to vacate.
Inspect their paws
When cold weather hits, you probably notice a change in your skin. It can become dry, cracked or worse. Your pet can suffer the same problems – especially their paws (and we all know that we can’t resist the cuteness of doggy and kitty paws!) To lower the risk of cold-weather injuries like cracked paw pads or bleeding to your pet’s precious feet, be sure to inspect them frequently.
Dress them properly
You may not be someone who likes when an animal is dressed in sweaters and other outfits, but in harsh weather, you may want to warm up to the concept. For instance, if your dog has a short coat or appears bothered by cold weather, you may want to consider dressing them in a sweater or dog coat. It’s a good idea to have several on hand, too. This way you can ensure there is always a dry sweater or coat for them to wear each time they go outside.
Wipe them down
Animals that have been outside in the cold can pick up chemicals on their bodies like deicers and antifreeze. Chemicals like these are extremely dangerous and can poison your animal if licked off their feet or fur. When letting your pet inside, wipe down or wash your pet’s feet, legs and belly to remove these chemicals and eliminate the risk of serious health risks.
As previously mentioned, chemicals like deicers and antifreeze are toxic to pets. To prevent poisoning your pet, or other animals in your neighborhood, take preventative action. Clean up any antifreeze spills quickly (even small amounts of antifreeze can be deadly!). It is also important to ensure your pet doesn’t have access to medication bottles, household chemicals or potentially toxic foods such as onions, xylitol (a sugar substitute) and chocolate.
Visit a veterinarian
Cold weather may worsen certain medical conditions your pet may already have. One, in particular, is arthritis. To help decrease the risk of your pet’s medical conditions flaring up during cold weather, it is important to take them to their veterinarian for a winter wellness checkup. This way, you will ensure your furry friend is ready and as healthy as possible for winter.
Know your pet’s limits
Based on their coat, amount of body fat, activity level and health, tolerance to the cold will vary from pet to pet. Being aware of how your pet handles cold temperatures is very important so you can ensure their safety when winter weather strikes.
Pets with diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease or hormonal imbalances, for instance, may have a harder time regulating their body temperatures. This means they will be more susceptible to problems caused by extreme temperatures.
Keep them indoors
A common belief is that dogs and cats are more resistant than people are to cold weather because they have fur. But this is actually untrue. According to American Veterinary Medical Foundation, cats and dogs are just as susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia as people are. The best way to avoid serious, life-threatening problems like these is to keep your pets inside during cold weather.
While longer-haired/thick-coated dogs, such as huskies are more tolerant of cold weather, it is still unwise to leave them outside for long periods of time, especially in below-freezing temperatures.
When trying to figure out if your pet(s) will be okay outside, consider the Greater Birmingham Humane Society‘s words:
“If it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for your pets.”
With hypothermia being such a strong risk right now for pets, Birmingham’s law enforcement is taking it very seriously. According to Olivia Swafford with Animal Control, leaving pets in freezing temperatures could lead to neglect charges.
“It could be anywhere from a misdemeanor charge to a felony charge depending on the type of damage it does [to your pet]. If it caused up to death, I would say that would be something that local police would pursue criminally.”
Swafford went on to say that keeping your dog, or pet, in a house or garage is still dangerous when temperatures drop below freezing. In order to prevent hypothermia and other serious conditions, it is best to keep them inside.
If you see any pets being kept outside for long periods of time during this cold snap, call Animal Control or your local police department.