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Pet parents sometimes believe that because their domestic dogs and cats have fur coats, they aren't as susceptible to the cold as their human counterparts. Unfortunately, pets can and do suffer from the cold — particularly those that are older, short-coated, thin, or very young. Keeping your pet safe as the temperature drops is essential. But how can pet parents keep their pets warm and comfortable? The following are some helpful tips.
As a general rule, pets should be brought inside when temperatures drop to freezing or below. Keep in mind that cats are particularly sensitive to the cold, and even temperatures in the low 40s could be too much for them to withstand for long. If bringing them into the home isn't an option, provide them a place — that's clean, dry, and warm — in the garage, heated porch, kennel, or catio. Cover the colder areas with warm items such as mats, rugs, animal beds, and blankets. Keep a close eye on cats that spend time outdoors. They tend to climb in engines or cars to stay warm up so make sure they have access to a cozy, secure place.
Be mindful of storing winter products and chemicals in areas cats may have access to. Cats love to drink antifreeze. Keep lids closed tight and in areas that pets can’t access. Because tongues can stick to metal surfaces during cold snaps, using plastic outdoor water bowls is recommended. Check the water frequently to ensure that it hasn't started to freeze over. Cold and dry air dehydrates the skin, so consider adding a humidifier to provide moisture to the air. Anti-itch products are available for pets who develop itchy or irritated skin as a result of exposure to cold outdoor temperatures.
Fresh air and exercise is an important factor in keeping your dog happy and healthy no matter what the season. In cold weather, dogs of all types — especially short-haired breeds, seniors, and small puppies — should wear a warm sweater designed specifically for them. Never cut or shave the fur of long-haired dogs during summer — they still need it to stay warm.
Booties are recommended for walking outdoors on surfaces that contain snow and ice, where road salts have been used, or where sand and gravel have been distributed on roads to provide traction. Ice particles, salt, sand, and small bits of gravel can all become lodged in a pet's foot pads and may cut or otherwise injure them.Pet parents should also take care to dry their pet off completely after coming in from spending time outdoors, paying particular attention to the feet, particularly foot pads and the spaces between the toes.
Active domestic pets require more calories during cold weather, especially if they're getting regular outdoor exercise.
It's also important to provide plenty of fresh, clean water. Keeping the animal well-hydrated also minimizes the potential for dry skin and the associated conditions it causes. Pets should never be allowed to drink from outdoor puddles. Besides being possibly contaminated by road salts and other runoff, puddle water may contain antifreeze — which is often fatal to dogs and cats.
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