Extreme cold temperatures are dangerous not only to humans, but to animals as well. If at all possible, for the overall health of your pet, keep him/her inside with you and your family. If your dog or cat stays outside, you must provide adequate shelter.
Winter weather can be extremely dangerous for pets if they do not have a warm place to go. Adequate shelter is a well insulated dog house or other structure with straw to keep them warm. No matter how well insulated the shelter they have access to, animals can still suffer from cold related problems if they are too cold for too long. Many pets suffer from hypothermia, they become very lethargic and do not move around much. If you notice these signs in your pet, take him/her to the veterinarian.
Frost bite is another serious risk to pets in cold weather. Frost bite is due to long exposure to extreme cold. The ears and feet of the animal have the greatest chance of being frost bitten. These areas will be very cold and swollen and are very painful to the animal. Cats can suffer from frost bite very quickly. If you suspect your pet has frost bite, take it to the veterinarian.
Outdoor pets use calories to generate heat in the wintertime. They will require at least 25% more calories in winter to generate enough heat to keep them warm. If your pet is primarily outdoors, check with your veterinarian about increasing your pet’s calorie intake during the winter season.
Pets need access to fresh water daily. Water freezes very quickly in cold weather so be sure to check it often. Also, use a tip-resistant ceramic or hard plastic water bowl rather than a metal one, as your pet’s tongue can stick and freeze to a cold metal.
Always check your pet’s feet when they come in from the snow. Sometimes, they have snow in the fur surrounding their feet or they can actually cut their feet on the ice. If salts or chemicals have been used where your pet walks, wash your pet’s feet immediately with a damp towel.
Warm engines in parked cars attract cats and small wildlife, who may crawl up under the hood. To avoid injuring any hidden animals, bang on your car’s hood to scare them away before starting your engine.
Antifreeze is a deadly poison, but it has a sweet taste that attracts animals, so be sure to wipe up any spills immediately and store the antifreeze container out of the reach of your pet.