Keeping pets healthy and happy in the cold weather

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ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — Winter weather safety isn’t just for humans; our furry friends can also be impacted by frigid temperatures.

“If it’s too cold for a human to be outside, then it’s probably really too cold for your animal to be outside,” Julie Rickmond with the Roanoke Valley SPCA explained.

Short bathroom breaks and walks are fine, according to Rickmond. However, pets shouldn’t spend too much time outside when conditions are below-freezing.

Just like people, pets can experience frost bite and hypothermia if they’re outside for too long.

“They may become lethargic,” Rickmond said. “You may see excessive shivering at first, but then they become lethargic. You may notice pain, like it can be painful to walk with their paws, so there’s sort of a lot of signs to look out for.”

If your pet experiences these symptoms, you should follow-up with your veterinarian.

One of the most sensitive parts of a dog’s body is their paws. Owners should try to keep their pet’s paws snow-and-ice-free, as well as keep “snowballs” out of their fur. Once the animal gets back inside, owners should towel-dry — not bathe — their pets. Towel drying will keep their skin from getting dry and flakey.

Another thing owners should look out for is ice melt products on sidewalks and roadways.

“The ice melt chemicals can be really toxic to animals,” Rickmond said. “You want to pay special attention to wiping off their paws when they come inside. It’s a good idea to wash them and dry their paws and also their bellies.”

To add an extra layer of protection, owners can consider pet garments.

“If you’re going to take your animal outside — and maybe it’s a very short-haired animal — maybe have a sweater or have some protective little booties for them. They might not like them at first, but they can really protect those paw pads, those sensitive areas on their body that can be more exposed to winter elements.”

Just like in the summer heat, pets should not be left unattended in a cold car.

For those who keep their pets outside, Rickmond says owners should check tethering laws in their locality. There are local laws against tethering dogs outside for too long in certain weather conditions.

Pets that live outdoors should be fed a bit more since they’ll need the extra calories to keep themselves warm. They should always have adequate shelter to shield them from the elements as well as a heat and/or insulation source, such as a straw bed. However, if it’s too cold outside, owners should consider bringing their pets indoors.

If you notice your pet shivering after being outside in the cold weather, Rickmond says to bring them inside and make sure they’re warm, comfy and dry them off.

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