With the increasingly fluctuating temperatures we've been experiencing lately, pets and humans alike have been hit hard by their inability to adapt to colder days.
Animals have the ability to change their coats as the weather gradually changes. If you keep animals indoors and the temperatures fluctuate greatly, our pets' coats and pads will not be able to adapt during the winter.
If you too have a dog that looks at you with an "I hope you're kidding" eye when you open the door and a cold wind blows in his face, read our tips to help you and your little companions survive the winter.
We often wonder, "How cold is too cold for my pet to be outside?". The answer depends on many factors such as age, breed, health status, body fat percentage and fitness that affect their ability to tolerate sub-zero temperatures.
Younger pets that are used to running and playing outside at all times of the year can usually withstand temperatures as low as 10°C without the need for fur. An older, less fit dog, on the other hand, may need a coat if it's 20 degrees.
Conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity and arthritis can cause cold intolerance, especially in freezing rain or wet snow.
If your pet resists going outside, it may be that the weather is too cold for him to acclimate. On the other hand, it may also indicate an undiagnosed immune, kidney, cardiovascular or endocrine system disorder. Be sure to inform your veterinarian so they can make sure your pet is healthy for outdoor activities.
When you're out and about in the winter, watch for some signs of hypothermia: Uncontrollable shivering, whining, hiding or reluctance to move mean it's time to check your pet's temperature and warm them up. But how do we know what the right body temperature is for our pets? Temperatures below 99 degrees on a rectal thermometer are abnormal, and below 98 degrees pets can't move to get warm. We do not recommend using ear thermometers as they are not reliable for pets.
Here are some tips to make winter a little warmer for our four-legged friends:
1) Invest in clothing: Some pets that live outdoors can get used to cold temperatures. But those that live indoors need extra layers when it's freezing cold.
2) Prefer warm food: During the winter months, your pets can eat warm food to generate internal heat. This goes a long way in helping your dog's temperature rise quickly.
3) Protecting feet: if your pet is not wearing boots, be sure to use a good paw and pad balm. When you get home from a cold walk, give your dog a warm foot bath and dry his feet with a towel to remove the snow.
4) For young pets: If you are potty training your dog, set up indoor and outdoor potty training areas for the winter months so he can get used to the low temperatures. Pets under 6 months of age should not be left outside for more than a few minutes when the temperature is below 20 degrees, and do not leave a pet outside unattended below 20 degrees.
5) Warm up indoors: Warming up before venturing outside will make the experience more enjoyable. Move around the house with your dog using his toys: you can toss him his ball a few times to warm him up.
6) Keep aging pets comfortable: cold weather can aggravate arthritis because it puts stress on the aging body, which reduces internal heat. Always remember to take extra care with your senior dogs.
Contact your veterinarian if you notice a change in your pet's activity, water intake or energy level. Older pets can become confused and run away if they are dehydrated and cold.
7) Dry Skin: Just because it's not hot doesn't mean we and our pets don't need to stay hydrated. Remember to keep plenty of water on hand inside and out to avoid dehydration. It's also a good idea to supplement your dog's diet with supplements that contain omega-3 fatty acids to give them all the nutrients they need to get through the winter.
With our advice, you can now enjoy a safe winter with your pets!