Arctic air returns to SE Michigan: Tips to keep pets safe in cold

Getty Images
Getty Images

DETROIT – Arctic air is returning to southeast Michigan, and that means you’ll be bundling up once again, and perhaps letting the kids sit in your warm car at the bus stop waiting for the bus to come. 

But don’t forget our furry little friends. A lot of people think that our pets’ fur keeps them nice and warm in this bitter cold weather but, in reality, they are just as susceptible to the cold as you and me -- and actually more so because they don’t wear hats and gloves.

Here are some things to remember to help keep our dogs and cats safe during harsh winter weather with special thanks to the Michigan Animal Adoption Network/Animal Care Network:

1.  Obviously, in severe cold, limit your pets’ outdoor exposure.  Wind chill applies to them, too, and not just you and me.  Animals can also get frostbite -- especially on their feet, ears and tails.

2. If your pet spends a lot of time outdoors, remember to give them extra food in the winter.  That extra weight they gain keeps them a little warmer outside in the elements.

3. Since there’s no water outside to drink (what’s out there will be frozen), and also because the air inside our homes is much drier in the winter, make sure your pet has ample water to drink.

4. Salt is very irritating to the pads on our pets’ feet.  If you see that your animal has been walking on salt (or even liquid on the sidewalk or driveway that was snow or ice melted by salt), it’s a good idea to clean their feet when they come back inside.

5. The main sign of mild hypothermia in dogs in excessive shivering.  Dogs shiver in order to produce body heat, thus, continuous shivering may mean the dog's body temperature is too cold.  A dog with hypothermia will also breath abnormally slow and breathing patterns will become very shallow.  The dog's heart rate will slow considerably and because of muscle stiffness, the dog may become clumsy, losing all coordination.  Dogs may also appear lethargic.  Moderate to severe hypothermia occurs when the dog's temperature falls below 95 degrees.  In some cases, the dog's eyes may become very dilated and fixed, and their gums may turn very pale or bluefish in color. In extreme cases, the dog may collapse and/or enter into a coma.

6. Immediate treatment of hypothermia is crucial.  The primary goals in the treatment and handling of a hypothermic animal are: keep the animal alive by warming, avoid any further exposure to cold, and then transport the animal to a site of complete veterinary care.  If a dog is not treated in the appropriate time period, its temperature may become so low that it cannot be restored to normal levels, making it fatal.  Take the dog immediately to a veterinarian if you suspect it has severe hypothermia or warming methods do not seem to be helping the dog.

7. If you see an animal that is clearly suffering in the elements, contact the owner if possible.  If that is not possible, then call your local animal shelter or the Michigan Humane Society.  If it is a very obvious case of animal abuse, call your local police department. 


Sign up for ClickOnDetroit breaking news alerts and email newsletters

Search for a specific story:

About the Author: