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Cold weather and pets...

Buurrrr…Dogs get cold too!

We are in the dead of the winter now in Roswell Georgia. Everyone is bundling up to go outside or weighing their options on the task that will make them go outside. Is it really worth going outside and freezing or can I do it at another time. I ask that exact question multiple times a week. We have the ability to make these decisions. Unfortunately, our canine and feline family members will have that decision made for them during these months and with no say in the matter. Now, I am not speaking of the dogs and cats that are let out for a brief time to do their “business” and then brought back inside. No, I am bringing to everyone’s attention the animals that are forced outside for prolong periods of time to endure the harsh temperatures of the winter. Atlanta does receive its fair share of freezing nights during the winter. So, why am I ranting about this topic. Simple, to raise awareness for all pet owners about the danger that freezing temperatures can create for our pets.

Our furry counterparts do have exactly that…fur. However, just like a winter jacket, this insulation will only go so far during a cold weather day or night. Providing a dog house, food, and water will not cut it during these months here in Roswell. The water in that bowl freezes and the temperature in the dog house mimics that of the outside air. Maintaining a core body temperature is quite challenging for any age pet, but puppies and senior pets are at a heightened risk. Their systems are not equipped with the needed reserves to endure sustained cold and can succumb to the cold weather elements quite fast.

Hypothermia is their biggest enemy. This can start to occur if your pet is outside in weather less than 40 degrees for prolonged periods of time. As their core body temperature drops, so does both their heart rate and breathing. This can lead to a drop in blood pressure and subsequent organ damage. Several factors, such as wind or rain can accelerate hypothermia formation. This year has been a wet one in Roswell and with temperatures now flirting with the freezing mark, it will be a knockout blow to any pets who are left outside for sustained periods of time. A question I get frequently asked in the winter months is what to do about regular bathing of your pet. If you need to bath your dog in the winter and cannot bathe inside, you have options. Our hospital, Chattahoochee Animal Clinic, offers bathing as one of our services. This is typically one of the most used services during the winter due to the inability to bathe outside. So, with this type of option we can avoid predisposing our pets to hypothermia.

What can we do to protect our pets? Simple, keep them inside. As we all know, our pet is part of the family, so why not treat them like one. Now, I am not saying to go out and get them their own recliner, but just bring them inside and love on them for the night. Even if you have an “outside” dog, set them up in the basement, laundry room, or better yet…the family room! Keep them warm. I have read in blogs that people set up warming lights in the dog house and put straw down as bedding to keep warm. There have been several instances where these dog houses have caught on fire or due to wet weather electrocution had occurred, so please avoid those measures.

I always encourage a conversation with your veterinarian to discuss options to keep your pet safe and avoid the dangers of cold weather. Every pet is different, whether its age, coat type, size, etc. So, our staff at Chattahoochee Animal clinic encourages a dialogue with clients to ensure that they are able to provide the perfect life for their pet, regardless of temperature outside. As always, please feel free to reach out to me at anytime if you have questions and stay warm.  

Until next time....Dr Smith

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