Outdoor pets and extreme cold weather
By Dr. Roger Krogstad, DVM
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC
The recent extremely cold weather necessitates special care for pets that live outdoors. Water, calories, and shelter are the primary needs.
Adequate water maintains good peripheral circulation to stave off the effects of the cold to the extremities. Snow is not a good substitute for fresh water due to the calorie drain required to melt it and the low volume recovery of water. Frequent checks to see if the water dish is frozen or automatic electric water heaters can be utilized to ensure 24-hour water access.
The body is a furnace that requires fuel to keep it warm. Calories, in the form of additional food, need to be increased this time of year. Carbohydrates or fats may also be added gradually to the regular diet as these are calorie-dense nutrients.
Pets that are calorie deficient may always act hungry, begin to look thinner, or begin stool eating as their bodies crave more energy. Most veterinary practices welcome walk-in visits to check the weight of pets to see if significant weight is being lost as the body struggles to mobilize calories during extreme cold.
Outdoor pets also need shelter from the cold and wind. This begins with a healthy and uniform hair coat. Short-coated dogs can tolerate moderate cold, but their calorie need is dramatically increased.
A shelter built out of the wind to prevent wind chill, with the opening pointing away from the prevailing northwest wind, is usually adequate. Air tight, custom-built, heated dog houses commonly have high humidity problems from the dog’s respiration and can be more stressful to the pet if there are wide temperature differences from inside to outside.
To discuss additional extreme cold weather concerns, call your veterinarian for advice. If you are calling in concern for your pet’s welfare in extreme cold, then likely it is best to bring them temporarily into the garage or a slightly warmer shelter. Wait for the warm up to let them out again.
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC is located at 210 Airpark Road in Marshfield and online at wildwoodanimalhospital.net.