Looking Out for Your Pets When it’s Cold
It’s winter time in Austin, which means you not only have to look out for yourself, but also your pets. The temperatures are usually mild during this time of year, but, it can get very cold, sometimes into the 30s and the 20s and below. February 2021 was unusual in that Texas had a monster snow and ice storm with single digit temperatures: people lost their power, pipes burst, and tragically, many died.
Most winters in Texas aren’t as bad compared to 2021, but when it gets very cold, it’s best to take precautions to make sure that your pets are safe.
Keeping Your Pets Inside or Outside?
Not all pets have the tolerance for cold, winter weather, regardless of their age.
Pet Fur and Cold Weather
All cats and dogs have fur (aside from the few breeds that are hairless), and an undercoat, which is a second coat of fur underneath their outer coat which helps them stay warm in winter and cool in the hot summer. While this works as insulation, it’s probably not thick enough to keep them warm when it’s brutally cold outside.
There are some long-haired and thick-coated dogs, such as Samoyeds and Siberian Huskies, for example, that are actually bred for colder climates. These breeds are often quite tolerant of cold weather; but if they’re eager to go outside, and if it’s below freezing, just give them a few minutes and bring them back in.
Pets that are short-haired will be affected by the cold much faster as they have limited protection against wind, snow and ice, should they come in contact with it.
Health Issues and Cold Weather
Pets with arthritis and issues such as diabetes, heart disease, and kidney disease, may not be able to tolerate cold temperatures and can be impacted by freezing temperatures. Pets can also be vulnerable to hypothermia and frostbite if exposed to very cold weather. If you’re still not sure, your Austin vet can help you determine your pets temperature limits.
The Danger of Anti-Freeze
Another thing to beware of is your pets coming in contact with anti-freeze. Usually, you would store this in the garage, but if you use it to help keep your pipes from freezing, there’s a chance that your cat or dog might get into it…and then they’ll be in trouble.
Ethylene glycol based anti-freeze has a sweet smell that attracts animals, but it’s highly toxic and if your pets taste or drink it, it can cause kidney failure. There are pet-friendly ethylene glycol based antifreeze alternatives, that are not harmful to pets, is biodegradable, recyclable and safe for the environment.
Winter Fashions for Your Pets
If it is cold outside, and your cat or dog is bored and wants to go out for a short walk, there are certainly sweaters and coats available for your pets. They may not like the feel of it at first, but once outside it will help keep them warm…and dogs are clearly more accepting of these garments than cats.
When you come back inside, towel dry your pets as they may be wet from any ice or snow. Pay special attention to their paws as salt, snow, ice and dirt can get stuck in there and be harmful if they taste it. Also, investing in humidifiers will help keep moisture flowing in your house, especially when it gets dry if all your doors and windows are closed.
Looking Out for Other Animals
While some people may be used to letting their pets stay out all night in the winter…it’s not a good idea, especially if they don’t have access to fresh water and food, or a place to keep warm.
Neighborhood Pets and Strays During the Winter
It’s important to keep an eye out for any possible strays or neighborhood pets who may be searching for food and warmth. If they have a collar and tag, reach out to their owner, and if not, perhaps you have an extra room to put them in for a while to keep them safe until you can find out who they belong to.
Checking Under the Hood
One thing to be very cautious of is cats and other small creatures crawling into your car’s engine to keep warm when it’s cold outside. If your cats are indoors, then perhaps a neighbor’s cat or a stray one may have crawled under your hood. Tap on the hood or maybe honk your car horn before you start your car, which will allow any cats to run free. If you’re still not sure, lift up your hood and take a look before driving.
And never leave your pets unattended in a car…keep them at home instead, unless you have to visit your Austin Veterinarian.
Existing Laws to Protect Animals
If it’s freezing and you see a cat or dog chained up outside or in a crate, contact the authorities, such as the Travis County Animal Control Services, or any of the many animal rights groups in the Austin area. They’ll come out and rescue them and provide them with any assistance they may need.
As of January 18, 2022, it’s illegal in Texas to leave your pet outside in freezing conditions without adequate shelter, food, and water. The Safe Outdoor Dogs Act bans the use of chains for tethering dogs. Only what is considered ‘humane materials’ such as trolley systems or ziplines can be used for animals outdoors. Shelter, shade and clean water must also be provided at all times. Violation of this new law can carry jail time and fines.
If it’s brutally cold outside this winter, just keep your pets inside. Make sure that they have plenty of food and fresh water to keep them hydrated if they’re indoors for a while. Make sure that there are no drafts in your home; if you notice any, do your best to seal any gaps, or you can use towels as a temporary measure. If your dog or cat has a special bed they like to sleep in, be sure to elevate it, so it’s not on the floor.
So, as winter rears its ugly head, do your best to keep you and your little fellas warm until the spring comes. Keep an eye out for other pets in your neighborhood who may be cold, as well. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to us, and we’ll be happy to help.