When your pets are outside, make sure they have protection from hot and cold weather. If it's too hot or cold for you to be comfortable, then it's too severe for your pet. Hot temperatures, combined with humidity, can cause dehydration and heatstroke. Temperatures lower than 32℉ can cause hypothermia (dangerous chilling of the body), or frostbite. Dehydration can happen at any time in any season.
Winter air is dry and can be just as dangerous as the heat in the summer. It's important to make sure your pet has plenty of fresh, clean water to drink throughout the day. Animals can sometimes sense a change in the weather and changes in air pressure. Since air pressure can decrease rapidly before a front passes, or before a storm hits, animals will react to this pressure change by acting unusual and making noise.
Foul outside weather can stress a pet, so keep them inside during high winds, storms, and weather extremes. The stress and anxiety from the noise caused by winds, thunder, and bright lightning strikes, sometimes leads to destructive behavior, loud crying, whining, and trying to escape. Many dogs and cats HATE the sound of thunder! If your pet is afraid of thunder you can help by remaining calm yourself. Play a game or start an activity to distract from the loud noises that come with severe weather. A calming vest can be very helpful for your pet. Turn on some music, television, or radio. Then take your pet to a quiet place in the house, turn on a light, and keep the shades or curtains closed so they don't notice the lightning.
Make sure your pet has an ID tag or microchip. Some storms can destroy or knock down fences, allowing pets to run away. Even if they are not runners, loud noises can scare them, and cause them to take shelter elsewhere. ID tags and microchips assure you can be contacted should they escape.
The dog days of summer can be dangerous for your cat or dog. Warm weather brings a lot of problems for pets because furry coats hold the heat. Left outside in the sun or even in the shade on brutally hot days, pets can suffer heat exhaustion or heatstroke. Because cats and dogs have no sweat glands in their bodies, they are more susceptible to heat-related illnesses and must rely on panting or sweating by their paw pads to deal with the heat and humidity.
Birds like a lot of light and sunshine, but in summer they need protection from direct sun. Birds lack sweat glands, but they can handle heat better than mammals. Their normal body temperature is about 105℉. Any increase could cause heat exhaustion in your pet bird. To regulate their temperature, birds lose heat through the evaporation of water by panting, evaporation through their skin surface and feet, and vibrations of the throat. They also lift feathers and hold wings out so that air can reach their skin and move away some of their body heat.
If your pet gets overheated act fast. Get your pet to a veterinarian or emergency animal clinic right away - it could save your pet's life!
Protect your dog from direct sunlight, particularly if he has a thick, coarse, or long-haired coated. NEVER leave a pet in your car during summer even with the windows open. Dogs are highly prone to heatstroke and if the temperature in the car's interior goes above 70℉, they could suffer a heatstroke, and die within minutes.
Keep a supply of fresh and cold water wherever your pet goes. Dehydration is common and may have fatal results. Summer is also the time for widespread flea and tick attacks and your dog has to be protected accordingly with medication and anti-tick shampoos on the advice of your vet.
Applying sunscreen to the dog's skin also helps if he has a thin coat. If you notice the following signs in your dog, keep him cool and get to an emergency vet for treatment:
- Panting which increases as heatstroke progresses
- Drooling, salivating
- Agitation, restlessness (cats may pace)
- Very red or pale gums
- Bright red tongue
- Increased heart rate
- Breathing distress
- Vomiting and diarrhea (possibly with blood)
- Signs of mental confusion, delirium
- Dizziness, staggering
- Lethargy, weakness
- Muscle tremors
- Collapsing and lying down
- Little to no urine production
10 Easy Tips to Keep Your Pet Cool
- To prevent heat exhaustion or heatstroke (possibly death) never leave your pet in a car in the summer heat. Your car is an oven. Temperatures can reach over 120℉. Cracking a window will NOT help.
- Air conditioning is the best way to help your pet stay cool in the warm weather, but if you don't have that luxury, place fans in places where your pet likes to sleep. Fans will help circulate the air inside your home and keep your pet from heating up. For pet birds, aim a fan slightly off-center of your bird's area. Some birds become spooked or annoyed when a fan's breeze hits them straight on.
- The best thing to do when taking walks is to go in the morning or evening and limit exercise to early morning or evening hours. Pavements get very hot and can burn your pet's paws. Test the heat of the pavement on your own skin. Place the palm of your hand or the soles of your feet on the pavement for 7-8 seconds. If the heat is too much for your skin it is too hot for your dog's paws as well. You can also buy dog boots to protect your dog's feet - they range in sizes from petite to x-large. Bring along water and make frequent water stops for the dog. Don't take long walks or over-exert in the summer. Consider these walks light exercise.
- Allow your dog access to cooler rooms of the house, such as the basement, the garage, or a screened porch where there is a breeze.
- Buy a doggy swimming pool and fill it with water for your dog to get into, wet down your dog with a garden hose, turn on a lawn sprinkler, or place a cool wet towel on your dog for evaporative cooling.
- Keep your pet's water bowl filled with fresh, cool water. Place ice cubes in the water during the hottest periods of the day. If you have water outside, pound a stake in the ground in his outdoor area. Place an angel food or bundt cake pan with an opening in the center over the stake to keep your dog from tipping over the pan. Fill the pan with water.
- Older and overweight pets are more at risk from the heat, so be more sensitive to their different needs in warm weather. Pets need exercise even when it is warm, but extra care needs to be taken with older pets, overweight dogs, short-nosed dogs, and dogs with thick coats.
- Attach a licker to an outdoor faucet or hose in your dog's run. When he's thirsty, he licks the device to get fresh water. The licker can be attached to a hose and extended into your dog's run.
- If your dog stays outside in a dog house, make certain the house is placed in the shade. A dog house heated by the summer sun can be almost as deadly as a closed car. Cover the floor with cedar shavings to help retain the moisture in his skin.
- Pets can get sunburned too and your pet may require sunscreen on the nose and ear tips. Pets with light-colored noses or light-colored fur on their ears are particularly vulnerable to sunburn and skin cancer.
If you choose to clip your dog's fur, trimming too close can leave your dog susceptible to sunburn, so leave at least 1 inch of fur for protection from the sun.
If you live in the suburbs or city, it can actually be very dangerous for your dog to eat snow, because snowplows and ice trucks often dump dangerous chemicals on the roads to keep them from icing over.
Just like people, a pet's cold tolerance can vary from pet to pet based on their coat, body fat, activity level, and health. Take shorter walks with your dog and watch the ground closely for snow and ice to prevent slipping or falling.
If your pet has short hair, its body may come in direct contact with the snow or cold ground when walking, so a protective doggy vest or sweater might be a good idea. Booties are available for your pet’s paws.
After a walk, check your pet's paws for cracks or bleeding. Ice can get trapped in between toes, so clean that buildup from your pet's paws if you see it. Keep the hair around the paws trimmed and neat.
Just like us, pets can get frostbite and hypothermia. If your pet is whining, shivering, seems anxious, slows down, stops moving, seems weak, or starts looking for warm places to burrow, get them back inside quickly because they are showing signs of hypothermia. Frostbite is harder to detect. If you suspect your pet has either condition, contact your veterinarian.
Your pet’s feet and belly can come in contact with de-icers, antifreeze, or other chemicals. After your walk, wipe your pet’s paws, belly, legs, and any other areas that may come in contact with these poisonous-to-your-pet chemicals.
If you notice the following signs in your pet, keep him warm and get to an emergency vet for treatment:
- Strong shivering and trembling followed by no shivering
- Acting sleepy, lethargic, or weak
- Fur and skin are cold to the touch
- Very red or pale gums
- Bright red tongue
- Decreased heart rate
- Dilated pupils (the black inner circle of the eye appears larger)
- Gums and inner eyelids are pale or blue
- Trouble walking
- Trouble breathing
- Stupor, unconscious, or coma
- Muscle tremors
- Collapsing and lying down
- Little to no urine production
- Hair standing on ends
10 Easy Tips to Keep Your Pet Warm
- Know your pet's limits. Some animals are more susceptible to the cold than others. Short-coated, thin, elderly, or very young cats and dogs get cold more quickly – adjust the amount of time they stay outside. A well-fitting dog coat or sweater is a great way to help keep your dog or cat warm, but if it's not waterproof it may get wet and make them even colder. Hypothermia and frostbite pose major risks to dogs and cats in winter, so remember, if it is too cold for you, it is probably too cold for your pet.
- Avoid the ice. Be sure to avoid frozen lakes and ponds when walking your dog as they could be seriously hurt or even killed if the ice breaks.
- Check the hood! Cats often sleep in the wheel wells of cars or even crawl into the engine during the winter months to keep warm. Bang loudly on your hood or honk the horn before starting your car. You may startle your cat, but far better than the risk of injury should they be inside when you drive off! Check hiding places in your car. Cats and other small animals like to burrow by a car's still-warm engine.
- Check your pet's paws frequently for signs of cold-weather injury or damage, such as cracked paw pads or bleeding. Wipe them down as your dog's paws can pick up all kinds of toxic chemicals during winter walks, such as salt, antifreeze, or de-icers.
- Avoid spills! Antifreeze attracts cats and dogs because it has a sweet taste, but it is extremely poisonous and can cause serious illness or death when ingested. Be sure to clean up any antifreeze that spills in your garage and keep the bottle somewhere your pets cannot access. Look out for toxic chemicals. If your pet walks on antifreeze, salt, or any other type of de-icer, rinse their paws in warm water as soon as you get home.
- Keep them secure. More pets become lost in the winter than any other season because snowfall can disguise recognizable scents that would normally help them find their way home. Make sure your pet's collars have up-to-date contact information and microchipped. Prevent your dog from becoming lost by keeping them leashed on walks.
- Don't leave your pet in the car. Just as hot cars are dangerous for pets in the summer, cold cars pose a threat as well. Only take your pets in the car if it is necessary, and never leave them unattended.
- Be seen! In winter, many owners walk their dogs in the dark, so make sure both you and your dog are safe by wearing reflective gear (clothing, leash, or collar) and keeping your dog close when walking on the street.
- Provide shelter. If your pets primarily live outdoors, make sure you bring them indoors during sub-zero temperatures. For the rest of the winter, provide them with a dry, draft-free shelter that is large enough to allow them to sit and lay down comfortably, but small enough to conserve body heat. Remember that pets who spend a lot of time outside will need more food to replace the energy lost in trying to keep them warm. Use plastic food and water dishes instead of metal – when the temperature is low enough, your pet's tongue can become stuck to the metal.
- Be prepared! Have an emergency plan and make sure this includes your pets! Have an emergency kit stocked with enough food, water, and medication to last your pets for at least 5 days. Hopefully, you will never need it, but if you do, you will be thankful you planned ahead.