Here in Willis, Texas, we don't worry much about bitterly cold winters that dump snow and ice.
However, pet owners still need to be aware of potential cold weather hazards that can harm their four-legged friends, and to know how to best protect pets should true winter conditions strike.
DO Check the Forecast Before Heading Outdoors With Your Pet
Although Texas winters are typically mild compared with the northern part of the country, cold fronts can move in. Check the forecast for a sudden drop in temperature or changing weather pattern before heading outside with your furry pal. Occasionally, severe winter weather can blow in quickly, leaving you and your pet unprepared for frigid temperatures, sleet, and snow.
DON'T Assume Your Pet is Warm Outside Because They Have a Fur Coat
Your pet's fur coat provides some protection from the elements, but they are still susceptible to the cold, especially if they get wet. If you cannot handle the cold, neither can your pet.
DO Groom Your Pet Appropriately in the Winter
You may love warm baths during the chilly winter months, but too much bathing can dry out your pet's skin and damage their fur. If your pet needs a bath during the drier winter months, use a moisturizing oatmeal shampoo and lukewarm-not hot-water. You can also spot-clean your pet's dirty areas with waterless shampoo, instead of a bath. Brush your pet regularly throughout the winter to help disperse natural oils that protect against skin dryness and matting from a shedding undercoat.
DON'T Leave Your Pet Alone With a Heating Pad
Heating pads and blankets make a cozy resting place for your furry pal, but leaving these items plugged in and turned on without supervision can be dangerous for your pet, because the items can overheat and burn your pet's sensitive skin. Let them burrow under fluffy bedding or use a self-warming bed instead.
DO Learn Hypothermia and Frostbite Signs in Pets
Spotting the warning signs of impending hypothermia or frostbite can save your pet's life. Keep in mind that pets who are young, old, short-haired, or have a chronic medical condition are more likely to become dangerously chilled. Bring your pet indoors to warm up as soon as you spot any of these early hypothermia signs:
- Muscle stiffness
- Difficulty walking
- Pale gums
As hypothermia worsens, your pet will stop shivering, develop slow heart and respiratory rates, have fixed and dilated pupils, and may slip into a coma.
Frostbite in pets typically affects the extremities, such as the paws, ears, and tail tip. Frostbite signs, which generally take several days to appear, include:
- Pale, gray, or blue skin
- Skin that is cold or brittle to the touch
- Skin ulcers
- Blackened or dead skin
The frostbitten area can turn red and become extremely painful while thawing.
DON'T Let Your Pet Venture Too Close to the Fireplace or Space Heater
One of the biggest cold-weather dangers is indoors. As your pet seeks a warm place, they may curl up too close to the fireplace or space heater and burn their whiskers, nose, or paws, or their fur can catch on fire from a stray spark. Block your pet's access to the fireplace and any heaters, and ensure they are turned off or burned out before leaving home.
DO Dress Your Pet for the Weather
Wet and cold conditions call for special outside gear for your pet. Invest in a well-fitting waterproof jacket or vest to protect your pet from moisture that can leave them more chilled. Also, safeguard your pet's paws from snow, ice, salt, and other deicing chemicals with booties. Check the fit carefully to ensure they are not too tight and will cut off circulation, and always remove the booties as soon as you come indoors.
DON'T Skip Your Pet's Annual Wellness Exam in the Winter
Cold weather can take a serious toll on your pet if they are struggling with a hidden health issue. Ensure your four-legged friend is healthy and protected against parasites and diseases that can occur in the mild Texas winters by keeping them up to date on preventive and wellness care.
Help keep your furry pal healthy and safe during the chilly winter by scheduling their preventive care visit. Give our Stone Ridge Veterinary Medical Center team a call to schedule an appointment.