I’m torn. I love snow, but I hate cold. When I go outside, my hands get too cold to work properly, my toes go numb and my nose turns red. I’m genetically a Southerner, I suppose.
Your dog or cat may be the same. In general, our pets tend to handle cold temperatures better than we might if we were only protected by our body hair. But hopefully you have more than just body hair to keep you warm.
That said, consider the following for your pets.
Veterinarians are often asked at what temperature to bring pets inside. Guidelines are often given, but some dogs don’t care if it’s 20 degrees. Working sled dogs in northern Alaska rarely have much shelter when out on a run, and often sleep burrowed into snow. On the other hand, my dog shivers when football weather finally arrives in the fall. Once the temperature drops below freezing, I doubt she’d do well.
Snow doesn’t necessarily mean you should bring your pets inside. If they can escape exposure to the elements in a barn or protected/insulated doghouse, they may do well despite a foot of the white stuff.
The same is true for ice. Constant, inescapable exposure to very cold surfaces can damage a pet’s paw pads. Frostbite is a real risk for pets in that situation.
Or even if your pet only indulges in massive snow eating, the soft tissues of the tongue and mouth may be at risk. And watch those knees on slick surfaces!
Additionally, cold weather may dehydrate your pet. When a limited water supply is available in a bowl and it freezes, your pet might as well be in a desert. This is more often a risk for livestock, but it can happen to pets as well.
If you do end up bringing your pet inside, sooner or later they’re going to need a potty break. I recommend bundling up and going outside with them. Once you’ve had enough of the cold and are ready to head back inside, they should be ready, too.
Matthew Sisk is a practicing veterinarian from Habersham County. Have questions about your pet? He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.