If our furry companions could speak, they would probably have a lot to tell us, they might talk about the weather as much as we do! We might not think about it, but our animals need extra care in hot and cold temperatures even though they may be more equipped for it than we are.
We want to take our fur babies everywhere with us but when the temps rise and fall, we have to care for our pets as we would ourselves. That means getting educated on what to do in extreme situations so that everyone stays safe and healthy.
Taking Care of Your Pet in Extreme cold
It might seem like their fur coats would protect them from the cold (and some dogs do have more protection than others!) but in extreme winter temperatures, dogs can still experience hypothermia.
Dogs with thick coats like Huskies, Newfoundlands and Samoyeds are equipped to handle frigid temps, but most other dogs with thinner coats should be monitored once the temperature hits or lower. Ordinary blankets and dog houses aren’t sufficient for weather colder than this.
At around 32 degrees, all cats, dogs with thin coats, and elderly or sick dogs should be housed somewhere warmer. Anything colder than this puts your dog at risk.
If your dog spends time in the cold weather or you like to play together in the snow and ice, make sure you know the signs of hypothermia.
- Pale gums
- Shallow, slow breathing
Cats have a pretty similar reaction to dogs and will experience:
- General weakness
- Stiff muscles
- Slow breathing
- Dilated pupils
Preventing Hypothermia in Pets
You don’t have to skip or prevent your dog from spending time outside, just keep these tips in mind during the colder months.
- Getting a warm, cozy sweater for your dog
- Be mindful of coat type, breed, health, and age
- Don’t let them outside in temperatures of 32 degrees or below for more than 15 minutes (that’s enough for a bathroom break)
- If you have an outdoor animal, consider a heated dog house and/or pet-safe heated blankets
- Bring cats (even our outdoor friends) in the house on cold days or make sure they have a shelter where they can find warmth (like a barn, garage, or shed)
- Have them warm up in a heated car
- Don’t forget about your dog’s paws! Grab some if you’re going
Taking Care of Your Pet in Extreme Heat
Most pet owners know the rule of never leaving a dog or cat in a locked up car on a summer day. This is because in the car, temperatures can be much higher; one study found that with the outside temperature at 72 degrees, the internal car temperature was 40 degrees warmer. The research also pointed out that cracking the windows open did not decrease the rate of warming, so don’t rely on that. In just a few minutes, your car can reach 120 or hotter!
The best thing for your pet (most likely a dog) is to leave him or her at home or take them inside with you whenever possible. Dogs do not have the same sweat glands as humans and rely mostly on panting to keep cool. When they aren’t able to keep up, they can easily suffer heat stroke.
The heat can be a problem even if your dog isn’t in the car. Whether it’s a trip to the park, a jog, or just hanging out in the yard, you should know what heat stroke looks like in dogs…because your dog can get it!
- Incessant panting
- Strange clumsiness
- Unwilling to stand up
- Dark red gums
- Dry mouth
With cats, it might look a little different:
- Excessive drooling
- Dark red tongue
- Restlessly trying to find a cool spot
- Sweaty feet (from their pads)
It might not be fun to think about these things happening to your pet, but if they love the outdoors, you need to.
And of course, if you see an animal in a locked car and it looks like they’re in trouble, try to contact the owner. If you can’t find them, you have every right to contact 911 or let the proper authorities know what’s going on.
Preventing heat stroke Your Pet
Before taking your dog on adventures in the hot weather, review these tips for avoiding heat stroke.
- Before exercising with your dog, have them checked out by a vet to make sure they’re in good health
- Take them out during a cooler part of the day
- Bring enough water for your outing (for you and your dog!)
- Have your dog rest in the shade when outside
- Leave the AC or fan on for your pets if you’re in the car or a camper
- Both cats and dogs will benefit from wetting their fur though cats might like it less. Felines can get a wet washcloth bath to avoid a hissy fit but for dogs it all depends on how much your pup likes water!
For wintery walks with your pet or summer time jogs, you need to watch out for your pet but also for yourself. Make sure your pet has water and warm accessories if needed but make sure you have what you need to avoid pain or injury when getting active. Whether you’re wearing hiking shoes, running shoes, or boots, can support you as you support your pet!