Like people, animals “feel” the cold when winter arrives. Many livestock animals spend the winter outside, while household pets such as dogs and cats often venture outside only when necessary. All animals have basic needs, such as access to shelter, feed, and water, which must be met.
It is a good idea to be prepared to help animals meet their needs in winter months. Remember that storms and cold snaps will affect animals more drastically than “normal” cold weather as they have not had time to adjust, and that being able to respond to extreme weather conditions is essential for animal well-being.
The following tips will help your pets enjoy a safe and comfortable winter.
- Pets must have access to adequate shelter
- Elevate doghouses off frozen ground – even a few inches helps
- Insulated doghouses are recommended
- Provide bedding for extra warmth
- Avoid metal feed and water bowls
- Heated water sources are ideal
Winter specific hazards to keep in mind for all pets:
- Store and dispose of antifreeze correctly as it tastes sweet and ingestion can be lethal.
- Rock salt and other chemicals to melt ice should be cleaned from feet after walks.
Recognizing frostbite and hypothermia
- Very young and poorly nourished animals are most susceptible.
- When taking house pets outside consider jackets or booties and keep physically active to stay warm.
- Frostbite most commonly affects the ears, tail and footpads.
- Affected areas are cool and pale.
- Shivering is an early sign but can disappear with severe hypothermia, which causes sluggishness and slow respiration.
- Consult your veterinarian if you suspect severe frostbite or hypothermia.
Information provided by the Saskatchewan Veterinary Medical Association Animal Welfare Committee