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How cold is too cold for your pet? Winter tips to keep your pets safe 

Here’s how to protect them as the temperature drops.

Pet owners are concerned about how to keep their animals happy and safe when biting colds strike. Moreover, vets argue that it makes sense to be worried.

According to Dr. Deborah Mandell, director of emergency services at the University of Pennsylvania’s Matthew J. Ryan Veterinary Hospital, “the risks of extreme cold are equal to the risks of extreme heat.”

According to her, pets might suffer from frostbite and hypothermia. They may also sustain paw injuries from the cold or slip on ice. Fortunately, pet owners can reduce the dangers by taking a few easy steps.

Limit Outdoor Time as Much as Possible

Talking to veterinarians, they revealed that domestic animals can safely stay outside in the cold for a limited time. However, if the temperature is at or below freezing, more than 10 to 15 minutes is not a good benchmark, according to Dr. Mendel. For many, the practice of going outside to relieve themselves and then coming back inside, especially during extreme cold, is a good rule.

Understand Your Pet’s Cold Tolerance

The ability to tolerate cold varies based on factors such as age, overall health, and physical structure. Dr. Ruch-Gaili noted that groundhogs, for example, with little fat under their skin and sparse fur, struggle with extreme cold. The American Veterinary Medical Association also points out that small pets with short legs can get cold faster than larger ones, as they are more likely to come into contact with cold ground.

Recognize Signs Your Pet is Cold

Dr. Gabriel Fadel, Senior Director of Programs and Projects at the Bond Vet in New York City, suggests paying attention to signs like shivering, reluctance to walk, and lifting their paws unnaturally. He particularly encourages dog owners to check for ice or snowballs trapped between the toes and inspect for cracks or bleeding when returning indoors.

Provide Warmth Indoors

Experts recommend sweaters or jackets for pets during chilly days, if they can tolerate it. Boots may also be useful, especially if your pet walks on surfaces with salt or melted ice, which can harm the paws. Additionally, ensure your pet has a bed, blanket, or even a “hidden hole” for warmth, and be cautious of space heaters to prevent burns.

Practice Prevention

Veterinarians suggest taking preventive measures like trimming the fur between the paw pads to reduce the risk of ice balls forming. Dr. Fadel advises cutting hair between the toes too. If your four-legged friend has excessive hair, be cautious not to interfere with the coat’s designed ability to regulate temperature.

Good News: Most Pets Will Let You Know

Dr. Ruch-Gaili assures that mammals typically communicate when they are uncomfortable in the cold—though not always. She notes, “Where we get in trouble is with the dog who likes going out and playing in the snow,” and “Suddenly, they realize they can’t feel their feet anymore.”

Exercise Caution with Paw Pads

If your pet has a lot of fur between their four feet, trimming it may help prevent the formation of snowballs and avoid cuts when licking. While cutting may assist in preventing the formation of snowballs, be cautious about over-grooming during the cold months, as their coats are designed to regulate temperature.

Know Your Pet and Take Precautions

Know Your Pet and Take Precautions Understanding your pet’s tolerance to cold, recognizing signs of discomfort, and taking appropriate precautions are crucial during the winter months. Whether it’s limiting outdoor exposure, providing suitable clothing, or checking for signs of distress, responsible pet ownership ensures the well-being of your furry friends during colder temperatures.

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