Like humans, cats and dogs are susceptible to hypothermia and frostbite

Golden retriever in snow
Credit: Getty

As brutal and deadly cold pushes across the Midwest, veterinarians want to make sure pet owners know how to protect their fur babies against frigid conditions.

Following these cold weather pet tips from Banfield Pet Hospital will not only help keep your pet safe during severe winter weather, but will protect owners as well. More and more cities are punishing owners who leave their pets to endure the elements alone outside.

If you are a pet owner, especially one who is expecting to sit through a cold snap soon, it is important familiarize yourself with these winter weather precautions, so your entire family can safely ride out any storm together.

Bring pets inside before the temperature drops below freezing

Like humans, pets can suffer from hypothermia or frostbite if they are left outside in cold weather for too long. A pet’s ears, paws and tails are especially susceptible to injury. If you suspect that your pet might be suffering from hypothermia or frostbite, take him to the vet immediately. Keep walks and outdoor time to a minimum during cold weather, and always keep an eye on your pets while they are outside.

If you care for a primarily outdoor animal, make sure that you provide him with an insulated shelter where he can go to warm up when the weather becomes too intense. This shelter should have a lifted surface to keep your pet off the cold ground as well as a blanket, pillow and bed. Try to feed outdoor animals indoors or in their shelters, since water and food can freeze outside.

Dogs lose most of their body heat from their paw pads, ears and through respiration. If your dog is comfortable in clothing, a sweater or coat with a high collar or a turtleneck that covers him from the tail to tummy is ideal. Booties can help protect paw pads from injury due to snow or ice and also keep salt and other de-icing chemicals away from the skin.

Never leave your pet alone in a car in any weather. Freezing temperatures and hot temperatures can both be deadly — it’s a risk that just isn’t worth taking.

Be prepared for a weather emergency

In case roads are closed or the veterinarian’s office is closed due to a snowstorm, have enough pet food, fresh water, warm bedding and any medications your pet takes on a regular basis on-hand — at least several days’ worth.

Understand pets outside may look for unique places to stay warm

Be aware that feral cats may climb into vehicle engines to seek warmth during cold weather. Knock on or check under the hood before starting a vehicle and honk the horn to startle any pets or even wild animals who may have sought shelter in or underneath your car.

Know many pets become lost in the winter

Always keep an eye on your pets when they are outside during winter weather. Snow and ice can hide recognizable scents that normally help your pet find his or her way back home. Ensure your pets have a fitted collar with up-to-date identification and contact information and a microchip with updated information, so they are easier to find if they do get lost.

Be aware of chemicals used in the winter that may be dangerous to pets

De-icing chemicals such as salt and other products used to melt ice and snow may be hazardous and can irritate the pads of your pet’s feet. Be sure to wipe animals’ paws with a damp towel every time you come in from the outdoors or consider having your pet wear booties to keep him safe.

Antifreeze is a deadly poison that can be fatal if swallowed. Even antifreeze formulated with propylene glycol can be dangerous to pets. Keep it out of your pet’s reach, and if you see or suspect a pet had access to or ingested antifreeze, seek veterinary attention immediately.

Check your dog’s paws for signs of cold-weather injury or damage during and after walks

Warning signs can include cracked paw pads or bleeding. Sudden lameness may be due to an injury or ice accumulation between toes or paw pads. You may be able to reduce the chance of ice-ball accumulation by trimming the hair between your pet’s toes.