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Woof Wednesday: Cold Weather Hazards and Carbon Monoxide Danger

Magic would stay out in the cold forever--and freeze his nether regions off!


It’s snowing—again! Ice and snow shut down N Texas last week for 4-5 days, melted over the weekend, and returned last night. 

I hope y’all have taken safety steps to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning–yep, it affects pets, too. My brother’s pet bird, Gumby, saved the family’s life several years ago when symptoms alerted them to the danger. Read more about carbon monoxide poisoning and pets here.

When the temperature drops overnight, people pull on sweaters. Dogs don’t have the benefit of pulling something out of the closet to wear. Magic-the-wooly-wonder would spend hours outside if he had his choice. Yes, that’s him in the picture during last week’s storm, but even cold-loving dogs can have too much of a good thing.

Old dogs get less cold tolerant as they age, because they lose muscle and fat mass that insulates, increases their metabolism, and keeps them warm. Aging skin and fur also tends to get thinner. Little dogs have less body mass to generate natural heat, too, and often benefit from a doggy sweater especially when they must do outdoor bathroom duty. 

Pets often develop dry skin, dull coats, and static-filled fur during the winter as a result of artificial heat from furnaces. Ask your veterinarian or pet products store about fatty acid supplements. These help counteract the drying effects of winter weather. You can also take a USED dryer sheet and pet your cat or dog with that, to help reduce the fly away fur from static electricity.

Pets stay warm by burning fuel—the food they eat. They need more calories to generate increased body warmth, too, especially if they’re outside pets and can’t rely on your warm lap. You can feed adult dogs a puppy food which increases the calories—or feed a “performance” diet. Just remember to switch back to a maintenance diet in the spring or you risk adding pounds and can end up with a fat Fido.

Provide your outdoor pets with shelter. Getting wet, or sitting in the cold wind, allows body heat to be stripped away and predisposes pets to cold risks. When fur stays clean, untangled and dry, it traps a warm layer of air next to the pet’s skin that helps protect them from the cold.

Outdoor shelters should be only slightly larger than the curled-up pet. Put a dry blanket or straw bedding inside for the pet to burrow and snuggle. Small areas can be warmed and actually heated by the pet’s own body, so avoid offering accommodations that are too large. 

Staying in the garage helps keep the wind off their backs, but cats and dogs still need a small cubbyhole to hide inside—even a cardboard box can help. Providing a light bulb overhead can offer some warmth, or you can invest in pet warming beds available from pet products stores.

When outdoor shelter or a garage isn’t available, pets should be inside when temperatures drop below about 40 degrees or the weather turns nasty.

Better yet, bring ‘em all inside and snuggle together under a blanket. That old Eskimo saying—“It’s a three-dog night”—certainly applies, and you’ll all welcome the warmth!

Woofs & Warm Wags,


About amyshojai

Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified animal behavior consultant (dogs/cats), award winning author of 30+ pet care titles and thrillers, and spokesperson to the pet industry.

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