Veterinarians weigh in on keeping pets safe during frigid temperatures

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) -- The news of a dog found ‘frozen solid’ on a porch in Ohio this week is a sad reminder that pet owners need to be cautious when frigid temperatures stick around for an extended period of time.

With wind chills well below zero overnight Friday, Action 2 News checked in with some veterinarians who say your pets paws are the most vulnerable this time of year.

When it comes to extremely cold temperatures, local veterinarians say there are certain characteristics that impact how well your pet can handle the cold, like age.

“Older dogs have arthritis, it hurts and they don’t move as well,” said Dr. Becky Krull, Allouez Animal Hospital. “Small puppies can’t regulate their body temps like an adult dog, so puppies can get cold intolerance a lot faster.”

The size of the dog also has an impact on how long they can withstand the cooler temps.

“Shorter dogs get colder fast because they are down in the elements,” said Dr. Krull.

However, the biggest contributing factor is the breed of the pet.

“If you are a sled dog, you are very well acclimated,” said Dr. Margaret Eastman, Bay East Animal Hospital. “With our little guys, those who don’t have double coats, they really aren’t equipped.”
“Little poodles and yorkies should not be out in this more than a minute or two to go to the bathroom,” said Dr. Krull.

But no matter what kind of breed your pet is, vets say with wind chills well into the negatives, no dog is built to live in -20 or -30 wind chill.

“They have a lot of the same limitations we do,” said Dr. Eastman. “If it’s cold for us, it’s cold for them.”

One of those limitations is their bare paws out on the cold pavement.

“If you want to go for a walk with your dog that’s great, but keep in mind those feet get really cold,” said Dr. Eastman. “You may be able to go further in your Sorels, than they can go with their unprotected feet.”

“Think about the things that are on the surfaces outside that your pets are picking up, so anti-freeze, rock salt, sand, and grease. That all gets stuck to the underbelly of a pet and on their feet, so you want to wash that off and wipe it down every time,” said Dr. Krull.

Along with a quick wipe down, vets also recommend examining your dog’s paws to make sure nothing is lodged in between their toes.

“If inspecting isn’t working, signs to watch for are excessive licking,” said Dr. Krull. “When a dog has a sore or something wrong, the dog usually licks at it so if you see that excessively on the feet, then something is probably up.”

Other items to consider are coats and booties for all different breeds, big and small. If your dog needs that exercise, Dr. Krull said pet owners should consider indoor doggy day care because these temps are nothing to fool around with.

“In weather like this, it is harder for them to find their way home. Scents get lost and it’s not as easy so make sure they are well identified,” said Dr. Krull.

“Don’t leave them outside and forget about them,” said Dr. Eastman. “I think that is where we run into trouble, so if you take it seriously and are attentive, they will be just fine.”
If you have any questions about the cold temperatures and your pet, don’t hesitate to contact your veterinarian.