IndyVet Emergency & Specialty Hospital

Pet Tips

Cold weather pet tips

Cold weather has arrived and it's time to "winterize" your home and vehicles for the harsh season ahead.

Anything else needing attention?

Don't forget to prepare your pets for these cold months, too.

By following a few "common sense" rules, pet owners can keep their best friends warm, cozy - and out of IndyVet's emergency and critical care clinic during the winter season.
  • Make a trip to your pet's veterinarian before the really cold weather sets in for a complete physical. Medical problems that increase your animal's vulnerability to the cold - such as arthritis, diabetes, heart and kidney diseases and hormonal imbalances - can be diagnosed and treated.
  • When the temperature drops to dangerous levels, keep your pet inside as much as you possibly can. Even an unheated garage or basement can provide significant shelter from cold temperatures and dangerous windchills.

    If the pet must be left outdoors for a time, provide solid shelter that is protected from the wind and supplied with thick bedding and plenty of non-frozen water (some pet supply stores now offer an electric water bowl that prevents water from freezing).
  • If you choose to shelter your pet inside a garage or basement, look around carefully to be sure there are no rat or mouse poisons in the vicinity. These substances are not only rodent killers - they're also lethal to companion animals.
  • Check under your vehicle's hood before you turn the key to start the engine. Cats are notorious for curling up next to a warm engine.
  • Keep your dog on its leash while enjoying walks in that winter wonderland, especially if you reside near a lake or pond. Animals easily can fall through the ice.
  • Keep an eye on your pets when you light a fire in your fireplace or if you use a space heater for warmth. Pets enjoy snuggling up next to a warm spot but are vulnerable to burns if they get too close to flames, heating coils or other hot surfaces.
  • Pets that do venture outdoors during cold weather likely will pick up salt, ice and chemical ice melts in their foot pads. To prevent chapped and raw pads, wipe your pet's feet with a soft, warm washcloth after every trip outdoors. This also will prevent the pet from ingesting salt and chemicals - both of which could cause digestive tract inflammation.
  • Make a fashion statement and dress your puppy or dog in that irresistible pet sweater, coat or cape - but don't expect it to do the entire job of keeping your pet warm. Remember, companion animals lose most of their body heat through their foot pads, their ears and their respiratory tract.
  • When you're outdoors with your pet, keep a close eye on them for any signs of stress or discomfort. If you observe something out of the ordinary: shivering, whining, anxiety, burrowing - take them back into a warm environment immediately.
  • Watch for two serious cold weather conditions: frostbite and hypothermia. Frostbite most commonly affects an animal's ears, paws or tail - but spotting it can be tricky since tissue damage is not apparent for several days after the damage has been done.

    Hypothermia occurs when the animal's body temperature falls below normal. This happens when the pet spends too much time in the cold, or when animals already in poor health are exposed to the cold. Symptoms include shivering, weakness, depression and/or lethargy. As hypothermia progresses, muscles stiffen, heart and respiratory rates slow, and the pet stops responding to stimuli.

    Both frostbite and hypothermia require professional medical attention; take your pet to your veterinarian or a veterinary emergency center as soon as possible.

    Any pet that is kept outside or spends a great deal of time outdoors will need some extra attention throughout the colder months of the year.
  • Always bring your pet indoors if wind chill or weather conditions become too severe.
  • Adequate housing with insulation and blankets should be provided to your pet. Any entrance should be pointed away from the wind and a thick flap should be placed over it to prevent the wind from coming in.
  • It is also important to remember that your pet's water will freeze very quickly in the cold winter air and it should be checked frequently.
  • Please remember to frequently remove any ice, snow or salt that has built up on your pet's paws or coat.
  • Some signs that your pet has been exposed to the cold weather for too long are blistering of the feet, severe shivering or a drop in body temperature. If your pet is displaying any of these signs, CALL YOUR VETERINARIAN IMMEDIATELY.
For cold weather pet emergencies, call IndyVet at PET-E-911. IndyVet is located at 5245 Victory Drive, just off the I-465 and South Emerson Avenue exit, opposite the Beech Grove Holiday Inn.


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5425 Victory Drive  |  Indianapolis, Indiana 46203  |  P: 317-782-4484  |  TF: 800-551-4879
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