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7 Tips to Keep Animals Healthy During Cold Weather

dogs play in the snow

You might find it cute and amusing when you see a Chihuahua wearing a miniature coat, but there are practical reasons for such canine fashion. Small dogs have a high body surface to weight ratio and lose body heat much more quickly than larger dogs. A snug sweater can provide a needed protective layer as well as make a fashion statement.

Colder weather means it is time to “winterize” your animals. Here are some tips from the NC State Veterinary Hospital for keeping your animals comfortable, healthy, and safe this winter.

  • Snow can be fun for everyone and daily exercise is necessary for health but be mindful of the temperature and the time spent outdoors. Fur does not mean complete protection from the cold.
  • Check your dog’s paws for ice around the pads and for irritation from sidewalk and road salt, which can lead to cracked paws, discomfort, and possible infection. It’s a good idea to wash the paw pads with room temperature water and smooth petroleum jelly on pads.
  • Be careful on off-lease hikes that your dog does not venture out onto frozen ponds and lakes to break through too thin an ice cover.
  • Be aware colder temperatures may mean outdoor cats and wildlife may find car engines offer a warm respite.
  • Some manufacturers are changing chemicals used in antifreeze, but assume any spills are highly toxic and even a few licks or walking through the fluid can be deadly.
  • Other potentially dangerous items include windshield washing fluid and ice melt products that can cause gastrointestinal tract irritation, depression, weakness, seizures, cardiac issues, and other life threatening issues.
  • Make daily assessments to ensure horses, livestock, and other outdoor animals have appropriate shelter from snow, rain, wind, and cold and constant access to fresh, liquid water when the temperature drops below freezing.

If your animal has an “off-hours” health issue and your veterinarian is not available, the NC State Emergency Service is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The location is 1052 William Moore Drive near the intersection of Hillsborough and Blue Ridge in Raleigh, NC. Please call 919.513.6911 for small animal emergencies and 919.513.6630 for equine emergencies.