With extreme cold weather currently gripping much of the province, the Ontario SPCA wants to remind pet owners that the cold weather can be harmful to your pets. Exposure to harsh conditions can cause serious illness or death to animals.
Here are tips to help you see when your dog is too cold, signs of hypothermia, requirements for dogs outside, and when an animal is in distress.
Remember your car is not a safe place to leave your pet. Cars hold in the cold, acting like refrigerators, which could cause your dog to freeze to death. Call 310-SPCA (7722) or your local police if you see a pet left in a vehicle.
Signs that can indicate your dog is too cold
- Shaking or shivering
- Hunched posture with a tucked tail
- Whining or barking
- Change in behaviour, like seeming anxious or uncomfortable
- Reluctance to keep walking or tries to turn around
- Seeks places for shelter
- Lifts paw off the ground
Signs of hypothermia
If you suspect your dog is displaying signs of hypothermia, wrap your dog in a blanket or coat, seek a warm shelter, and contact your vet immediately. Signs to watch for include the following:
- Muscle stiffness
- Slow, shallow breathing
- Lack of mental alertness
- Fixed and dilated pupils
- Stupor-like state
- Loss of consciousness
Though it’s important to pay attention to these things, you shouldn’t wait to see the first signs of discomfort to call your walk quits. If you think it’s too cold for you, then it’s too cold for your dog.
While maintaining your dog’s exercise requirements during the winter is important, when conditions are especially cold, it’s a good idea to cut your walk short and supplement your pet’s exercise with some indoor activities for dogs.
Dogs left outside
When the temperature drops below freezing, pets should not be left outside for extended periods. Cats, short-coated dogs and puppies are particularly vulnerable in cold temperatures. Keep cats indoors and protect your dogs from frostbite or hypothermia by taking them outside for short periods during cold weather.
Consider slipping your short-coated dog or puppy into a comfortable dog sweater or coat as an extra layer of warmth. Never shave your dog down to the skin in winter, as a longer coat will provide more warmth. As well, when bathing your dog during winter months, ensure he is completely dry before taking him outside.
As a pet owner, it is your responsibility to ensure your pet stays warm, during the winter months and all year round. While the Ontario SPCA strongly recommends bringing your dog indoors, dogs that live outside require as a minimum a dry, draft-free doghouse soundly built of weatherproof materials with the door facing away from prevailing winds. It should be elevated and insulated, with a door flap and bedding of straw or wood shavings. Check your pet’s water frequently to ensure it’s not frozen and use a tip-resistant plastic or ceramic bowl, rather than metal, to prevent your dog’s tongue sticking to the cold metal surface. There are also heated and/or insulated bowls available that prevent water from freezing.
If you keep your pet outside they need to have a proper and suitable dog house according to the Ontario SPCA Act, all year round.
If you suspect an animal outside is in distress, call 310-SPCA (7722) or local police.
Take pet precautions
Use a damp towel to wipe your pet’s paws and underside after being outside. Salt and other chemicals used to melt snow and ice on roads and sidewalks can irritate and burn your pet’s sensitive paws – and can cause injury if ingested. Also, remove ice balls by placing your pet’s feet in warm (not hot) water before drying them off with a towel. Consider using “booties” to protect your pet’s paws.
Don’t let your dog off leash on ice or snow, especially during a snowstorm, as dogs can lose their scent and easily become lost.
Ensure your pet always has a warm place to sleep away from drafts and off the floor. A thick cozy dog or cat bed with a blanket or pillow is great.
Stay warm out there!