There’s a good chance that, whatever season it is where you live, you’re in the midst of a weather challenge right now. If you think it’s challenging to stay cool or warm, imagine how your furry friend feels! If it’s summer, his or her coat may be adding to the heat, and if it’s winter, then that coat may not be thick enough. Monitoring environmental challenges and helping your dog or cat remain comfortable is just as important as protecting your furry friend from the risk of serious diseases and parasites year-round. Here are three easy ways to keep your dog or cat protected during extreme weather.
1. Shelter Your Furry Friends
It’s essential to help your dog or cat stay comfortable during extreme temperatures. Summer temperatures can be too hot, and winter temperatures can be too cold. Always consider that your dog or cat could be at risk during extremes and check-in with yourself — if you are not comfortable, then your dog or cat is probably not comfortable either. Make sure you provide your dog or cat with the right type of shelter because temperature extremes can lead to serious injury.
Generally, temperatures below 45℉ (7℃) or above 90℉ (32℃) are within a range that is uncomfortable for dogs and cats without shelter. When it’s too cold, the result could be hypothermia. When it’s too hot, your dog or cat is at risk for heatstroke. Limiting exposure to extreme temperatures is the only way to keep your dog or cat safe. Remember the temperature during their exercise routine and don’t leave them alone outside without shelter or – even more dangerous – in a car with closed windows, not even for a few minutes.
Hypothermia is a loss of body temperature as a result of overexposure to the cold. This may happen if your dog or cat becomes lost, wet, or is outside in cold weather for a long time. Some signs of hypothermia can include slow pulse, shallow breathing, disorientation, collapse, and unconsciousness. If your dog or cat is suffering from hypothermia, place them with wrapped warm (not hot) water bottles. If their hair is wet, dry it, with a towel or possibly using a hairdryer on a warm (but not hot) setting. White, numb skin may be frozen or frostbitten. The area needs to thaw slowly, and this will be painful; do not rub or apply ice or warm water. Call your veterinarian immediately because hypothermia is a serious condition.
Heatstroke can occur when dogs and cats are left outside in high temperatures without shade. Some signs of heatstroke can include skin that is hot to the touch, vomiting, drooling, rapid panting, distress, loss of coordination, collapse, and unconsciousness. Get your dog or cat into the shade – or if available, an air-conditioned space – and use cool water, ice packs, or wet towels to cool the head and the body. When your dog or cat starts to look better, offer small amounts of water to drink. Do not immerse your dog or cat in water to cool them down because cooling that is too rapid can lead to serious complications.
2. Provide Fresh Water At All Times
Hydration is key to health all year long. It can be challenging during a heatwave or a deep freeze. It’s easy to prevent dehydration: just make sure your dog or cat always has access to clean and fresh water.
Your furry friend can dehydrate quickly in the summer or winter but for different reasons. Dogs and cats run the risk of overheating when the temperature is too high because, compared with us, their bodies have a reduced ability to cool down. Both dogs and cats pant (yes, even a cat will pant, eventually) to lose heat. This loss in water can lead to dehydration if the water is not available. You might not think that cold weather poses a risk of dehydration, but it does. In colder weather, a dog or cat needs to burn extra energy to stay warm, and they need more water for this. Outdoor cats and dogs experience an even higher risk of dehydration when their water sources are frozen or too cold to drink.
How can you tell if your dog or cat is dehydrated? There are some signs to look for and probably the first and most obvious aspect is that they are very thirsty and looking for something to drink. If dehydration persists for a while then you may see dry, sunken eyes, loss of skin elasticity, loss of appetite, dry mouth and nose, vomiting, dry gums, and depression. Eventually, even more, severe signs appear that can include weak pulse, bright red gums, and mucous membranes, weakness, shivering, listlessness, unconsciousness, and in extreme cases, death. It is essential to contact your veterinarian and get help if you suspect dehydration and your pet is not improving with access to cool, clean water to drink.
3. Protect Your Furry Friends’ Paws
Another surprising thing to consider are paws! It’s essential to make sure your dog’s or cat’s paws are protected and clean during very hot and cold periods. During the hot summertime, dogs and cats can burn the bottoms of their paws on hot pavements and concrete, even in the evening when the sun is setting! Be sure to check their paws after time outside, especially if you notice limping or increased licking because these behaviours can be a sign that something is amiss. Look closely for blistering, redness, and tenderness. It is also wise to check between the toes because that’s a common spot to find ticks hiding in search of a blood meal. Speak to your vet about the best year-round tick treatment options.
Remember that foot protection is important for both very hot and very cold days. A habit of checking and cleaning paws with a little warm water before they come back inside will help you notice any subtle changes.