As winter weather sweeps across the United States, many are wondering just how safe it is to take your dog out for a walk or if your outdoor cats need to come inside for the season. Just because our little friends have fur doesn’t mean they’re completely immune to the cold, and it’s important to exercise caution with any kind of animal in your care.
American Veterinary Medical Association president Dr. Rena Carlson explained to CBS News that each pet’s resistance to frigid weather is different, and medical professionals who know your pets would have the best answer about how to proceed this winter. “When it comes to pets, if you can consult your veterinarian, they have that medical history to be able to help you understand how cold-tolerant your pet will be,” Carlson said.
Dr. Washi Ashraf, medical director at Brooklyn emergency vet clinic VEG Williamsburg, explained that our dog’s breed, body, size, coat, and pre-existing conditions all play a factor in just how much cold they can take. Temperatures dropping below freezing make her “concerned” about the animals outside, and the colder it gets, the more vigilant you should be.
“I’m really, really worried if it’s like under 20 [degrees Fahrenheit], for most average dogs,” Ashraf said. “But again, this kind of depends on what type of dog you have, and how well they’re gonna tolerate being outside.”
Determining whether it’s too cold for your dog to be outside partially requires some common sense. The conventional wisdom is to put yourself in your pet’s (winter) shoes. “If you’re bundled up, and you find that it’s too cold and you can’t handle it any longer, your dog probably can’t either,” Ashraf said.
Just as with dogs, each cat and their ability to handle the cold is different and depends on factors like breed, size, and hair coat. “They have less insulation, especially, outdoor cats tend to be on the thinner side,” Ashraf said. As a result, they can possibly be more prone to hypothermia and frostbite.
If you don’t have some already, it might be worth it to invest in some cold-weather gear for your furry friends.