Pet safety during cold weather: Animals can suffer frostbite and hypothermia despite fur coats

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Our Golden Retriever says it's too cold out here!

Our Golden Retriever says it's too cold out here!

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – With wind chills expected to hover around minus-5 degrees this week, you’ll likely feel cold even if you’re wearing a fur coat.  That goes for the four-legged members of our families who have natural fur coats.

The Alabama Veterinary Medical Association put out a reminder for pet owners to be prepared to protect their pets against the severe cold.

Here’s a checklist of things to remember to do to keep pets –indoor or outdoor pets– safe during the frigid weather:

1.  Although some pets are conditioned to cold weather, veterinary experts agree that you should bring outdoor pets indoors if the temperature drops below 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

2.  Puppies, kittens, and short-haired pets should come inside anytime the temperature goes below 40 degrees. They should also be protected when they go outdoors. Consider getting your pet a coat or sweater with a high collar or turtleneck. They should be covered from the base of the tail to the belly. If your puppy is sensitive to the cold consider using indoor training pads. If your dog is sensitive due to age, illness or breed type, take your pet outdoors only to relieve himself.  If it’s too cold outside for you, it probably is too cold for the pet to stay out as well.

3.  For pets with long hair, proper grooming is essential to help them maintain a layer of warming air within their coat. Pets who are heavily matted cannot keep themselves as warm.

4.  If your pet must stay outdoors, be sure to provide adequate shelter for your pet. An acceptable house will have three enclosed sides, elevated off the ground, and contain generous amounts of bedding such as straw or hay.

5.  In cold weather, bigger is not always better.  A house just big enough for your pet will warm up faster and retain heat better than something that is too big.

6.  Animals need access to fresh water. Use heated water bowls so that their water does not freeze, and replenish them frequently. Lack of enough water can cause dehydration which can lead to kidney failure.

7.  Antifreeze is a common and deadly pet poison during colder months. It has a sweet taste to pets, so they will readily lap up any spilled material.  If you spill antifreeze, dilute the area well with water and sweep excess water into a rocky or sandy area.  Cover area with soil to keep pets from licking at the rocks. If you suspect your pet has consumed any antifreeze at all, contact a veterinarian immediately.

8.  Always wipe the paws of your pets if they have been exposed to areas with ice melts.  This can cause blistering on their paws and contains chemicals which are dangerous for pets to ingest.  Keep an eye out for limping, excessive licking of their feet and redness to the skin areas between pads.

9.  Cats should be kept inside in extreme cold.  Also, feral cats love to warm up underneath car hoods. If your car is kept outdoors, or if cats have access to your garage, be sure to pound on the hood of the car prior to starting it.  Many cats are killed or severely injured by fan belts and moving engine parts.

10.  Animals suffer from frostbite and hypothermia just like humans.  Consider keeping dogs on a leash when they go outside and make sure they are wearing ID tags.  Curious dogs off leash may explore frozen retention ponds, lakes or streams, and fall through the ice into frigid water.

11.  Pets should NEVER be left alone in vehicles.  Leaving a pet in a vehicle is always dangerous, and in cold weather it increases the potential for carbon monoxide poisoning or hypothermia.

12.  Older pets may suffer more from arthritis during these months. Outdoor exposure should be limited during extreme weather.

13.  Monitor all pets around wood-burning stoves, fireplaces, electric blankets and space heaters.  These can cause severe burns.

Founded in 1907, The Alabama Veterinary Medical Association is composed of approximately 725 veterinarians from around the state, all committed to protecting people, pets, and livestock.