Four Signs It’s Too Cold To Take Your Pet Outside
Veterinarian Reviewed by Dr. Janice Huntingford, DVM on January 13, 2018
Posted in Cat
The massive snowfall and drop in temperature throughout the country has many pet owners wondering if it is safe for their pets to be outside for extended periods of time. A warm coat on top of your pet’s thick fur might seem like sufficient protection but depending on a variety of factors, taking your dog for a decent walk or leaving your cat in the backyard could seriously endanger their health. These factors mainly revolve around your pet’s behavior after being outside, the type of pet you have, and of course, the severity of the weather in your community. Every winter brings different weather and your pet’s health is subject to change, so you cannot just assume this year’s cold is going to be just as safe as last year.
Here are four signs it is too cold to take your pet outside for as long as they would on a normal day:
1. If It Is Too Cold For You…
There is a common misconception that dogs and cats don’t get as cold as humans because of their fur. But when the temperature drops below 25 degrees, pets are just as susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia as their owners. So if it is so cold that you can’t bear to stand outside for more than a few minutes, even with a heavy cote, it is most likely too cold for your pet to do the same. In these cases, a walk should probably be limited to around 5 minutes for smaller dogs and possibly up to 10-15 minutes for larger, thicker breeds that have a higher tolerance for cold weather.
2. Your Dog’s Breed And Condition Say Otherwise
Your pet’s resistance to cold weather usually comes down to size, breed, and overall health. Among the least resistant dog breeds are small, old, and hair-covered pets like poodles, since hair does not provide the same level of warmth as fur. Labradors and Golden Retrievers are usually considered to be moderately resistance, while the most resistant breeds include huskies, malamutes, and other northern breeds.
Age and health, however, must be factored in as well. Old age, infancy, diabetes, heart disease or kidney disease will significantly bring down a dog’s resistance. Many serious conditions, including hormonal imbalances, make it more difficult to regulate body temperature, regardless of size or breed. This is why it is often recommended to take your pet to the vet at the beginning of winter and learn if he or she has become more or less resistant to cold since the last visit.
3. Undeniable Symptoms Of Illness
Shivering is a tell-tale sign of hypothermia in dogs, since they typically will not even shiver in a cold room. A shivering dog should probably be taken to the vet immediately. Blue lips, lethargy, or loss of appetite are a few other signs of hypothermia in dogs and cats. That third sign should be taken very seriously even if it isn’t accompanied by the former two because most pets need extra calories and water in the winter. Dehydration increases the risk of hypothermia and other cold-included health problems.
4. Strange Behavior
Aside from blatant symptoms of illness, certain behaviors can suggest that your pet is feeling the physical effects of being kept outside for too long. A few minutes into a walk, your dog might start walking slower or just stop walking. Rather than shivering, cats like to find a warm place to hide when they are cold. So, if your cat immediately starts hiding underneath something right after being outside, the temperature might have officially dropped to an unsafe level.
Staying Warm Indoors
When it gets too cold for your pet to be outside, simply keeping him or her indoors might not provide sufficient warmth. You might want to create some sort of particularly warm area where your pet can sit, since both dogs and cats love spending the day by the fireplace. Ask your vet if a heating mat or heating lamp would be a good addition to your household. A warm pet will stay active and hungry, taking a great deal of stress off your shoulders as you worry about how the snow will impact your morning commute.
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Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan