The Dog Days of Winter

EUGENE, Ore. — Just because your dogs and cats have fur doesn’t mean it’s safe to leave them out in freezing weather.

In fact, veterinarians say domestic animals aren’t much better at surviving these sort of temperatures than we are.

Dr. Sean Barrett at Santa Clara Animal Hospital says dogs and cats shouldn’t be outdoors for long periods of time when the temperature is below 40 degrees, unless they have external heat sources.

“It really comes down to the comfort level that you and I want, these animals want also. They want to be in your house. They want warmth,” Barrett said.

Barrett says normal body temperatures for dogs and cats is 100 to 102 degrees. If they drop below 100, they’ll begin to go into shock and need intervention, such as warm IV fluids and heating blankets. One of the first signs that your pet is too cold is shivering. And even if your dog or cat has long hair, that doesn’t mean they’re protected.

“I mean, foxes that are out there right now have a wonderful thick undercoat and they’ve got that protection layer. Our domestic animals do not have that kind of a coat,” Barrett said.

Other tips to keep in mind, if your pet is outside, make sure their drinking water isn’t frozen. And if you walk your dog, make sure to wash their paws afterward. The salt that people sprinkle outside can irritate their pads. Also, put booties on their feet to keep them from getting frostbite. And a fleece sweater is always a good idea.

“It’s not any different than you and I. If you’re cold, they’re cold,” Barrett said.

Oh, and there’s one more rule.

“And, you want to make them look as cute as possible. That’s the key,” Barrett said.

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