Des Moines Vets Warn of Winter Hazards for Pets in Iowa’s Cold Weather

Cold Weather Hazards – Winter Dangers
by Dr Nancy Peterson, Ingersoll Animal Hospital Des Moines, IA

The frigid Des Moines weather is not only a problem for people but it is important to keep in mind that pets are also at risk when the weather turns bitter cold. Pets are susceptible to frostbite, hypothermia (low body temperature) and other cold weather hazards. Hypothermia can affect normal body function and produce injury or, eventually, death. Our pet’s don’t have opposable thumbs to turn the door knob and can’t let themselves inside out of the cold without our help, so it is up to us to keep them safe.

Pets that live outdoors in the winter need shelter to protect them from wind, snow and cold. A shelter or dog house should be insulated and the entrance protected from drafts. Is should be big enough for the pet to lay down comfortably but cozy enough to be warmed by body heat. Safe heated mats, and a good layer of clean straw can be helpful to keep your pet warm and comfortable. Fresh, unfrozen water must be available at all times.

Even pet’s that are used to being outside can suffer from frost bite and hypothermia. Many an outside cat has lost parts of ears or tails due to frostbite in bitter weather. Dogs that live outside should be able to come inside when they want to. Cold winter weather can be especially hard on old, very young or on pet’s with chronic health problems and they should should be kept indoors whenever possible and given extra TLC. Sweaters and booties are not just a fashion statement in bitter weather and can be very helpful for thin, short-coated and small or toy dogs. If severe winter storm warnings or extreme cold weather alerts recommending that people stay indoors are issued in Des Moines, it is a good idea to bring your pets indoors, too. If your dog or cat cannot be brought into the house, a garage can provide some shelter. But keep in mind that carbon monoxide poisoning can occur if pets are left in a garage with a car’s motor running.

Keep them warm, provide them fresh unfrozen water, and keep any trips outside to “use the facilities” brief and closely monitored. Better yet, it is great weather to snuggle up with your pet inside and keep everybody warm together!