Autumn is coming to an end, and with it, the mild temperatures we’ve enjoyed while taking our dogs on walks through the park, or letting our cats stroll around our yards. Yes, the mercury is dropping—we’re starting to see lows in the 30s and the 40s, and the weather reports are calling for above average snowfall and lower temperatures than normal. We’ll be getting our cold weather gear out of storage soon, and warming up the cars before we hit the road to work in the morning. But how should we prepare for the way cold weather affects our companion animals?
While our dogs and cats may already be wearing a fur coat, winter affects them, too. Whether your dog or cat is used to spending a lot of time outside, or is left at home indoors all day while you’re at work, winter means some changes for them. But with a bit of common sense, they’ll be just fine when the snow begins to fall.
Most pets will be all right during the winter with an average indoor temperature that’s comfortable for humans, even if you, like most people, save money and energy by turning down your heater to 65 degrees or so when you’re at work. But cold tolerance varies from animal to animal, whether you have a dog, cat, or a more exotic pet, so just be aware of your pet’s needs. Older animals get colder more easily, and if your dog or cat has had some recent health issues, it might be a good idea to keep the house a bit warmer for them. Just use your judgment, or ask your veterinarian in the greater Philadelphia area if you have any questions about keeping your dog or cat comfortable when the wind is howling.
For pets who go outside, it’s a good idea to go on shorter walks when the cold weather sets in. Not only are they subject to exposure just like people, but older dogs who suffer from arthritis may have a lot of trouble walking on icy paths or uneven, snowy streets. While short walks are fine for most dogs, just be aware of your pet’s limitations. If your dog has a heart condition or a hormonal imbalance like Cushing’s disease, it may be difficult for them to keep their body temperature up. And even a healthy dog with short legs will find their belly closer to the snow and freezing ground, causing them to get cold more quickly!
As for cats, we all know that for indoor-outdoor cats, keeping them happy even when the weather is nice can be a challenge. Even if they meow, it’s a good idea to keep your cats inside when it gets cold, especially as evening falls. Your cat’s fur will not protect them if they stay outside all night—hypothermia and frostbite are real risks, necessitating a visit to your local specialty veterinary healthcare hospital.
For cats who spend the night out of doors, a car can seem like an appealing shelter. Wheel wells close to a car’s engine can stay warm long into the night, and as you know, cats can worm their way into the most unlikely spaces, which can sometimes mean getting into your car’s engine compartment. So, if you leave your car outside in the winter, you can be a friend to local neighborhood cats and strays by pounding on the hood before you crank the engine—you might just save a life.
If you have concerns for your pet this winter, go ahead and schedule a winter wellness exam with your family veterinarian! Your Philadelphia area veterinarian will be happy to talk to you about ways to keep your dog or cat warm, healthy, and happy until the spring.
VRC is a specialty veterinary healthcare hospital located in the greater Philadelphia area. Our emergency medicine and critical care center is open 24/7, 365 days a year. If you have concerns about your dog or cat’s health this winter, give us a call.