K-State veterinarian warns pet owners to prepare ahead of extreme cold

A veterinarian at Kansas State University has warned pet owners to prepare to keep their pets inside ahead of forecasted extreme cold weather.
Published: Dec. 20, 2022 at 8:53 AM CST
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MANHATTAN, Kan. (WIBW) - A veterinarian at Kansas State University has warned pet owners to prepare to keep their pets inside ahead of forecasted extreme cold weather.

Kansas State University says on Tuesday, Dec. 20, that the winter solstice begins this week, as well as a weather forecast which includes snow and dangerous wind chills - which means winter has officially arrived in the Sunflower State. A veterinarian with the school said this is the time to bring some pets inside.

“It is time to consider bringing your cat or dog inside for warmth,” said Susan Nelson, clinical professor at the Kansas State University Veterinary Health Center in the College of Veterinary Medicine. “Pets that are very young or old, and those not acclimated to the colder weather, should be brought in during the colder temperatures.”

Nelson advised that dogs with heavy coats could get too warm in the house, so keeping them in a slightly cooler room or the garage can prevent them from getting uncomfortable. Short trips inside before a long period of cold can also give pets a chance to become accustomed to indoor temperatures.

If pets do get nervous or panic while inside, Nelson said a carrier or crate could help ease the transition. Owners should speak to their veterinarian about calming medication if a pet’s anxiety is severe.

Nelson also indicated that pets should have easy access to food and water bowls and should know where they are located. If pets are not housebroken, she recommended keeping them on floors that are easily cleaned.

However, Nelson warned that homes do have their own environmental threats to pets that differ from those found outdoors. She said indoor plants, like lilies, dieffenbachia and philodendron can be toxic to pets.

“Before bringing pets inside, take an inventory of what plants you have and find out if they are poisonous, then move them to an inaccessible place,” she urged.

Nelson also listed additional common items found in the home that can be harmful to our furry friends:

  • Chocolate
  • Raisins
  • Onions
  • Electrical cords
  • Candles
  • Potpourri

With proper care and preparation, Nelson said pets can be comfortable outside during cold weather.

“Outdoor shelters should not be too big in order to prevent loss of heat to dead space,” Nelson said. “The door should face the south or west to reduce wind gusts. Use clean straw or hay for bedding, as blankets tend to get trampled easily and lose their insulating effect. If your pet will allow it, hanging a blanket over the door or using a pet flap will keep the wind out.”

Nelson also noted that cats benefit from a cozy box in a sheltered area as well. She said straw or hay bedding works just as well for felines.

“Outside water bowls should be checked at least twice a day for ice, and more often during particularly frigid weather like we will experience this week, to prevent dehydration,” Nelson said. “A heated water bowl is a better option.”

The veterinarian advised that some pets who dwell outside may need an increase in food during cold weather to help stimulate their body heat.

Nelson warned the age of a pet can also make it more susceptible to cold weather. She said young and senior pets are more prone to hypothermia and should be kept in a warm environment.

“Pets with osteoarthritis should be treated with extra care,” Nelson added. “Keep them indoors in a warm and well-cushioned area. You can speak with your veterinarian about pain medication options and therapeutic diets that can help ease the pain of arthritic joints.”

According to Nelson, additional winter weather safety tips for pets include:

  • Well-fitting cotton, fleece or natural sweaters for shorthair dogs with no decorations that can be easily ingested.
  • Honk the horn on vehicles or bang on the hood before starting the engine to scare away any cats that may be attempting to warm themselves.
  • Rinse off a pet’s feet if they have walked on treated surfaces and do not let them lick it off. Consider booties to keep the dangerous treatment and ice balls off their paws.
  • Immediately and thoroughly clean up any antifreeze spills from vehicles as the mixture is deadly to dogs and cats.

Nelson also warned that frostbite can affect the ears, feet and noses of pets just as well as people. To avoid frostbite, she said not to leave pets outside in the extreme cold for extended periods of time. She said chances are that if you get too cold, it is probably too cold for your pet as well.