Cold weather and your pets

The Fall weather finally arrived in Polk County which means its time to review how to keep your pet safe during the cold weather. Thankfully, we do not get snow but it does get chilly and occasionally below freezing in Florida. The concern is that our pets are not well prepared to handle the rare cold weather. It is the duty of pet owners to make sure the pets are not exposed to danger during these cold spells.
Let’s start with clothes; do pets really need them? Certain hairless or thinned coated pets will require to be bundled up when going for a walk. Typically, the less body fat the pet has the worse it can withstand the cold environment. In fact, most dogs really do well to insulate against cold with just their fur so what all pets need is a warm shelter from the wind and rain. A dog house can be filled with straw to insulate and keep outdoor cats and dogs warm. The water supply should be checked against freezing and the water intake monitored closely since many pets dislike drinking cold water. In our practice, we see an increase in urinary blockages during the cold season and it perhaps could be linked to a decrease in water consumption. Signs that your cat or dog has a urinary tract issue include abnormal urination or accidents in the house, small or very large output of urine, red-tinged or dark-colored urine and pain upon urination. Inexpensive pet water fountains can be used to keep the water moving and preventing freezing.
The cold weather also brings in some pain issues to the forefront since many older pets suffer from osteoarthritis that worsens when exposed to the cold temperatures. The pain could be worse if the humidity remains high. Relieving your pet from pain requires a visit to your veterinarian. How would you know if they are experiencing pain? Pets usually pant more, avoid moving much ( not jumping or having difficulty rising), they might eat less and show behavioral changes ( more cranky).
Special attention should be placed on the condition of your dog’s paw pads as they can become very dry during cold weather. If you see cracked pads, it is safe to apply coconut oil or vaseline topically. The fur should be kept brushed and free of mats so that the pets can be insulated properly. Some allergic pets chew on their feet a lot during the winter in Florida because as the grass goes in hibernation a lot of weeds start showing up. Up north, the exposure to salt can really dry up and injure the pads. using pet boots/pad covers can be necessary.
Making sure that your house yard is wildlife proof is important since raccoons and other critters might try to find a shelter from the cold near your house and yard. This makes cold temperatures a factor in increased wildlife-pet encounters. In fact, making sure that your pet has a current rabies vaccine or at least a good protective titer against that deadly disease is an important consideration at this time of the year. Check with your veterinarian how to keep your pet healthy in the cold weather season.

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