Myths and facts on how to keep pets safe in cold temperatures

Myth #1 – Because dogs are descendants of wolves, they can easily survive freezing temperatures

Fact: Pets’ tolerance to cold varies based on their coat, body fat, age, activity level and general health. Fur provides some insulation, but not enough to prevent frostbite and hypothermia No pet dog or cat should be left outdoors indefinitely in below-freezing weather. Know your pet’s limits.

Myth #2 – If my dog eats enough snow he won’t need to drink as much water

Fact: Snow doesn’t have near the hydration benefit of water. A properly hydrated pet will find fresh fallen snow fun to munch on but it’s no replacement for a steady supply of fresh H20. Eating too much snow (again depending on the animal) can cause digestive upset.

Myth #3 – My dog would rather use his nose as a snow plow than go to the bathroom. He just wants to play.

Fact: While we like to view these antics as expressions of sheer joy, there is a purpose. Snow masks familiar scents readily available on bare lawns. Shoving your nose through snow doesn’t sound very pleasant when you think about it. Snow makes it a little more difficult to pinpoint “the right spot”. The paucity of scent results in more dogs becoming lost and disoriented during winter than any other season. Never leave your pet off leash in snow unless he’s in a fenced area.

Myth #4 – Cat and dog paws provide the same protection as shoes or else they would freeze.

Fact: While paw pads contain a thick layer of fat they are by no means freeze-proof. All extremities (nose, ears, paws, tail) are subject to frostbite during sustained periods of biting cold. Ice and road chemicals can cause paw pads to crack and bleed. Wipe and examine paws after every journey outside. If pads are dry or cracked, apply bag balm or other emollient. Trim excess hair under the pads and between the toes to prevent ice ball formation. Use pet-safe de-icing products on your property.

Myth #5 – My pet will be safe and warm locked in the car while I go shopping or dine at a restaurant.

Fact: This one drives me nuts. I’ve heard more dogs barking from cars in mall parking lots in the past week than any other time of year. Vehicles become refrigerators in winter and ovens in summer. Why don’t people get this? If your dog wants to “go for a ride”, make it a ride. Don’t imprison him or her in your car for hours. That’s not part of the deal and just plain stupid.

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