While Texas might not see much snow or ice, cold weather can still be dangerous for our pets. Here are our tips for keeping your pets warm and cozy this winter:
Bring them inside
This one might seem obvious, but a common misconception about pets and cold weather is that pets tolerate the cold better than we do. While there are certain breeds who are better suited to colder conditions, a majority of pets are not equipped to handle freezing temperatures and it’s best to keep your pets indoors when the weather is cold. Additionally, it is important to note that puppies and kittens, senior pets, and pets with health conditions are going to be more susceptible to cold weather.
When faced with freezing weather, pets are at an increased risk for hypothermia (low body temperature), frostbite, and may suffer emotional distress. Freezing pets may injure themselves or become lost trying to seek warmer shelter, and it is not unheard of for pets left outside to be picked up or “rescued” by a passersby who wants to save your pet from the cold.
Additionally, it is extremely important to monitor your pets in the backyard if you have a pool. Even pets that know how to swim can become quickly overwhelmed by the freezing water and may not be able to get themselves out of the pool.
Give them a warm place to get cozy
Ensure that your pets have a few places around the home where they can lay with something in between them and the floor. Hardwood, tile, or cement floors can be significantly colder than the rest of the room in winter, so we recommend keeping their bed or a blanket or rug down for them to curl up on if they aren’t allowed in carpeted areas of the home.
If your pets spend a lot of time outdoors, it may be worthwhile to look into climate-controlled* pet houses to keep your pet warm during winter (and many are capable of staying cool during the summer months, too!). Climate-controlled pet houses often feature a thermostat that can be adjusted to your pet’s comfort level all year long. This is also a great option for outdoor cats!
*Climate-controlled pet houses are not the same as insulated dog houses. Standard dog houses or plastic igloos may provide some protection from rain, snow, or wind, but are not usually warm enough inside to keep your pet comfortable.
Dress them for the cold
Sweaters aren’t just for little dogs! Sweaters and coats are made for dogs and cats of all sizes and can help keep them warm when it gets cold out. Dogs and cats of all ages can benefit from the extra warmth, especially small pets who get cold more quickly or pets with short hair. Not sure if your pet is warm enough or not? Here are some tell-tale signs that your pet might benefit from some extra layers:
Reluctance to move or walk
Hunched posture or tucked tail
Holding up paw away from the ground
Cut back on bath time
Try to avoid extra baths whenever possible, as pets can become quite chilled when damp even if they are inside. Additionally, you may notice that your pet’s skin is dryer when the weather is cold (just like us!) and bathing can strip their coat of natural oils making their skin dry and flaky. If your pet needs a bath, we recommend using a gentle, moisturizing shampoo and conditioner (we love aloe and oatmeal!).
If you take your pet to your vet or groomer for a bath, they can force dry your pet using a pet dryer which can significantly reduce drying time. Force dryers are extremely powerful and do not blow hot air like our hair dryers do. Pet’s skin can become severely burned and damaged by hair dryers, so we recommend thoroughly towel drying and keeping your pet in a warm room after their bath instead.
In the event that your pet does become hypothermic, it is important to act fast as hypothermia can lead to shock and organ failure.
Signs of hypothermia:
A rectal temperature below 100.5 degrees Fahrenheit
Violent shaking or trembling
Pale skin or gums
The first thing to do is move your pet inside to a warmer environment. We strongly advise all owners to contact your vet immediately if your pet is hypothermic, but there are some things you can do in the meantime to start warming them up until you can transport them. Because hypothermia can also be indicative of underlying health issues, we recommend taking your pet to the vet immediately to have them assessed, even if they seem to be warming up and doing well at home.
Bundle your pet up in warm blankets (you can warm them in the dryer). Do not apply electric heating pads to the skin, use a hair dryer on your pet, or submerge your pet in a hot bath, as all of the above put your pet at high risk for burns and may cause them to warm up too quickly, which can also lead to shock.