Dr. Jennifer Lander, ASPCA Manager of Animal HealthJanuary 18, 2008
Part of being a pet parent is staying extra cautious during the harsh winter months. Luckily, the ASPCA’s Dr. Jennifer Lander was on hand to provide cold-weather safety tips when she hosted a live chat on our ASPCA Online Community this past January. An accredited member of several national and state veterinary associations, Dr. Lander lives in New York City with her husband, their two sons, and Casey, a 14-year-old Lab mix.
Thank you, everyone, for making my first online chat such an enjoyable one! The questions were interesting and broad ranged, and I loved the pictures you sent. Thanks for letting me help you help your animals...Stay warm!
Can a tiny Chihuahua take the cold? My vet said to treat her like a dog and bring her outside unless she shivers. Do you agree?
I do think there's a benefit to getting some fresh air and going out, but many dogs and their owners prefer wee-wee pads and staying in (especially when it's cold). Very small dogs get cold faster, so a sweater or coat is a good idea. Only stay out if she's happy and comfortable.
How much should I feed my pit bull? He is living outside, and I’m not sure I am feeding him enough.
Staying warm in the winter takes more energy, so increased food intake is necessary. It's not about volume of food, but more about how your dog looks. If you can see spine, hips and ribs, then he is too thin and you should increase food (or frequencytwo meals instead of one?). Good body condition means you can feel, but not see, his bones. Make sure your dog has access to shelter and water at all times.
I saved a great Pyrenees from the pound. He won't come inside. He seems to like the cold weather, and he has a really nice fur coat. I built him a house under the deck with bales of straw. Is this enough to protect him? It’s been really cold. Do I need a heat light? Also, what do I do in the summer? Do people shave long haired dogs?
Great Pyrenees are definitely built for snow! Their double coats do keep them nice and warm, but don't forget that they need grooming and coat maintenance. The ground can be very cold, so sometimes elevated flooring in a dog house can warm things up. Straw is perfect. No heat lamps! I'd work on the behavior aspectmaybe you can get the big guy in before it gets hot. Speak to your vet or shelter about behavior/training resources. It is okay to shave long haired dogs in the summerbut not too short, because fur protects skin from the sun!
Is it a sign that my NYC apartment is too chilly for my cats if their fur is cold? They seem perfectly comfortable and content, but sometimes their fur feels cold. I have no control over our heatthe building doesbut I can always complain!
I'd go by how they're acting more than the temperature of their fur. NYC apartments can be climate control-challenged, but cats are smart enough to find where it's warmerunder blankets or in a patch of sunlight. An animal’s fur is designed to keep body heat close by creating a loose barrierit also keeps cold (and heat) away from the body. You should keep complaining if you're cold, but I bet your cats are fine!
My dog loves to play in the backyard, especially when it snows. However, lately he sits in the snow and just eats it. Is this bad for him?
There's no harm in eating snowthe only concern would be if snowwere a replacement for water. There is very little water in snow, so provide fresh water for your dog at all times. If needed, there are heated water dishes that will prevent water from freezing. Make sure that snow is pureno salts or chemicals.
Can anything be done for frostbite? And what are the problems that occur from frostbite?
Well, frostbite means prolonged exposure to cold temperatures, so prevention is the key. Frostbite is the death of tissue in the extremities (tail, toes, ear tips, etc), so if your pets are out in cold temperatures, they should have a place to go to and stay warm or be brought indoors. Frostbitten tissue appears pale and feels cold to the touchif you suspect that your pet has gotten frostbite, warm the affected tissue up slowly (as opposed to rapid warming if there is hypothermia without tissue damage). Once it's warm, the tissue may get red or swollen and be painful. If symptoms don't resolve and look normal within two or three days, a visit to the vet is needed. Amputation of dead tissue may be necessary.
I have a cat who has decidedfor no medical reasonto use my furniture, beds, couches, etc. for his litter box. Sultan has not been an outside cat since 1998. What precautions should I take with him being outside all the time, especially in cold weather? He is not declawed, but is neutered.
Cats really don't thrive outdoors. There are too many dangers (cars, other animals, poisons, etc.) I especially wouldn't think a cat who’s been indoors for 10 years is going to appreciate the boot. Obviously, something is bothering Sultan. Has your vet done a thorough medical workup? He's at least 10, and there are lots of conditions that can cause elimination disorders. If he really gets a clear medical ticket, then talk to your vet about medications (anti-anxiety, etc.) and other modifications that can be made in your home. You can try keeping him in one non-carpeted room with a new litter box (or two) with new litter. Feliway phermone spray can help calm this type of behavior, too. Maybe something else is going on in your house that he resents (a visitor, new pet?). Don't put Sultan outpursue other solutions.
I have two Pomeranians who absolutely love going out in the snow. I noticed that their paws get really dry. I've tried conditioning balm made with grape seed and green tea, but all they want to do is lick it off after I've applied it. Is there anything else out there that can keep their paws in good shape?
Have you tried booties? There are lots of different types noweven little disposable latex ones that last for a week or two. I would recommend trying a product that doesn't taste as good. There are oil-based sprays and wax/petroleum based balms that might not be so lickable. Make sure you stick with lick-safe products, though!
My dog has had some issues with happy tail*, and went through many vet visits. I'm noticing that she now has very rough patches on her paws. We just got our first real snow, so it's now weather-provoked, but I want to make sure there's not something serious here that I'm missing. Should I use Musher's Secret? Others have recommended Vaseline or mineral oil. What should I try?
*Editor’s Note: Happy tail refers to when a dog wags his tail against something hard (a wall, door, cabinet) which breaks the skin, causing the tail to bleed.
Happy tail stinks! If it continues to bleed and cause everyone grief, sometimes (I know this sounds extreme) a partial tail amputation is the fastest and best way to solve it. If the rough patches are on her haired skin, they may just be calluses over pressure points like her elbows and hocks. If they're on other places, see your vet. If the rough patches are on the pads, this may be due to normal age-related changesthis tissue gets thicker and rougher with age, wear and tear. Musher's Secret and similar products are beneficial for protecting pads from hot, cold and rough surfaces, but it's not a medical treatment. If the pads are cracked, bleeding or painful, this isn't normaland you should visit your vet.
I take my six-month-old shepherd/collie mix for walks in the evening. I live in Ohio, so it can get pretty cold, and it snows a lot! Does she need anything to keep her warm when we walk?
Sounds like your pup will have a nice thick coat when she grows up, but for now, I'd recommend a coat or sweater. Puppies don't have as much body fat as adults and can get cold faster. It's also a good time to introduce her to wearing something if she needs tomake it fun, not a fight! And no matter how heavy an animal's coat is, snow = wet, so get her something waterproof to wear for wet days.
My grandmother has a 10-year-old chow with stomach cancer. He's been an outdoor dog all his life and likes keeping an eye on the street from his fenced-in yard. I'm worried about him being sick and too cold. He has a house, but he doesn't like to sleep in it that much. He has a huge coat and weighs 85 lbs. Although he is sick, he is keeping his weight on very well. He is on a fattier diet with many nutritional supplements. Should we try keeping him inside now?
It sounds like your grandmother's dog is happy being the outdoor dog he's always been. Changing his lifestyle should only be done to enhance his quality of lifeif he likes where he is, don't make him change. I'm glad he’s under medical care, and the high-fat diet and supplements will boost his battle. Make sure that you and your family are paying close attention to his changing medical needs and his comfort. I guess you all will be spending more time outside to be with him. Best wishes.