Cold Weather Tips

800px Dog sled kennels

Thankfully, we’re well out of the grip of the Polar Vortex. I felt like I was back in school at Northern Michigan University for a few days there. I don’t mind the cold too much, but that was pretty crazy.

The other associate veterinarian at our hospital had a very sad case this week that surprised the heck out of me. It was a dog that came in with severe hypothermia. His body temperature was only about 84F. A dog’s normal temperature is between 99.5F and 102.5F. My first question was, “How did this happen? Doesn’t the owner know any better?” The answers turned out to be somewhat complex.

The hypothermic patient did have shelter outside in the form of a doghouse with very thick straw bedding — that’s exactly what’s recommended — but he wouldn’t use it. He refused to go into the house for some reason. The owner’s other dogs used their shelters and were fine. This patient’s aversion to his new accommodations aren’t the owner’s fault, of course. Trouble and more questions arise when we try to find out why the dog wasn’t provided different shelter or a place indoors to keep warm instead.

We had a dozen or so calls/visits from clients because their pets refused to go to the bathroom outside. It was so cold that many of the dogs didn’t want to walk on the snow or frozen ground. Others would go outside but refuse to squat in the snow to eliminate. I can’t say I blame them. I wouldn’t want to use an outhouse at -14F! A few accidents in the house occurred. Those owners were quite forgiving due to the circumstances. Even a few of our staff members’ dogs wouldn’t go out for more than a few seconds.

These extreme cold events aren’t very frequent. Animals still need to be protected from the cold. Here are two excellent links discussing ways to keep pets and other animals safe in the winter:

AVMA Cold Weather Pet Safety

ASPCA Protect Pets from Winter Weather

There’s one additional concern during the winter that bears repeating: antifreeze. I posted about the dangers of ethylene glycol here. Click here to get a refresher on this dangerous liquid.

Remember that it doesn’t have to be subzero for the winter weather to cause significant harm to your pets! Stay smart and stay warm!
Additional note: I probably will not have time to post on Thursday and Sunday in the coming week. I have an out-of-town obligation that will keep me away from the computer for a while. If I can snag good wifi access, I’ll try to share a news story or two.



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2 responses to “Cold Weather Tips

  1. Chris Miner

    PROPER CARE for our pets is not a difficult concept. I’m relieved that this poor dog was EVENTUALLY taken to the vet. Did he live? My question is, why wait for hypothermia? They were aware of the dog’s reluctance to enter the shelter. Maybe the other dogs wouldn’t let him in. Whatever the reason, TAKE HIM INSIDE! Even “outside” dogs have trouble in sub-zero weather. It’s our RESPONSIBILITY to give our pets everything they need. They deserve that much…and a whole lot more!

  2. This patient survived the hypothermia; I’m uncertain if he’s been brought back for any follow up to evaluate for long-term consequences. :\
    We’re definitely on the same page with this one!