We are so spoiled on the Central Coast with the usual balmy weather that this last blast of arctic air has been a bit of a surprise.  We know where the coats and gloves are kept and can use those opposable thumbs to turn up the thermostat, not so for the pets in our lives. Although the frigid weather may fade, experience now tells us that during these winter months it can come back at any time.

            Dogs that love to be outside and particularly those that are kept outside during the day may need a little more shelter or clothing when the temps drop.  If your dog is an “in the yard” during the day pet then having a shelter like an igloo or dog house will be valuable for them. Heating pads and blankets are NOT safe because dogs may chew the wires resulting in electrical burns in the mouth or worse electrocution.  Also our pet’s skin is a little more sensitive to heat that ours and thermal burns even from a low setting on a heating pad can cause skin damage.  If your pet prefers or needs to stay outside provide a blanket or bed that can be used for nesting and ideally shelter of some sort to allow that pet to trap air under a roof. When the nighttime temperatures drop below freezing, it’s best to bring your furry friends inside.

            Although we seldom get snow on the central coast, these morning of 28 degree weather can be tough on the pads of our pets that are walking or tend to do a lot of running. Be sure to check your dog’s pads for irritation, redness or discomfort particularly if you are a morning runner with your pet. You can get booties for your pet that helps protect their feet. Whether hot or cold weather—or just an increase in the amount of walking for your dog—their feet need conditioning just like ours for change in surfaces and increased friction.  You can also use a coat or sweater to help your dog stay warm when they’re outside. Especially, if you have a short haired dog or one that spends most of their time indoors and is therefore not conditioned to temperature extremes.  Be sure to remove the coat when they arrive back to the cozy house to prevent overheating.

            Cats tend to be more selective in their location during the cold winter. If you have an indoor only cat then most likely they have located the warm spot on your bed, or near the heater registers or fireplace.  If you have roaming cats that enjoy outside try to be sure they are back inside by nightfall. This not only protects them from wild animals but the temperature drops significantly with the sun these days.

Another important part of winter safety for our pets is making sure that they are not exposed to anti-freeze. Traditional anti-freeze has ethylene glycol as an ingredient.  Ethylene glycol has a sweet taste and if left on the ground can be attractive to pets and they will drink it.  It takes less than a teaspoon of antifreeze per 3 pounds of body weight to create toxicity.  Here are some sites to read more about ethylene glycol toxicity:

Ethylene glycol causes severe damage to the kidneys within about 24 to 48 hours of ingestion and can be fatal.  Most anti-freeze has a greenish color and can be identified on the ground so keep your pets out of the garage when you are working on your car and away from puddles in parking lots that might contain this substance.

            Careful attention to our pets will help everyone enjoy the winter weather and have a happy holiday season!

Blog Post Author: 

Merrianne Burtch, DVM, DACVIM