If You Feel Cold, So Does Your Pet

In extreme temperatures, dogs can quickly go outside to relieve themselves, but then they should go back inside where it is warm, according to the Suffolk S.P.C.A. Taylor K. Vecsey

With temperatures having plummeted on Long Island, the Suffolk Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is reminding pet owners that cold weather can be dangerous for animals, too. 

On the East End, temperatures are in the single digits and low teens Monday and winds are blustery with dangerously cold wind chills. The National Weather Service reported wind chill readings as low as -14 degrees. 

There is even concern for horses in such frigid temperatures. At Stony Hill Stables in Amagansett, lessons were canceled on Monday. "The horses, cats and humans are going to stay in the barn," the stable posted on its social media accounts.

While people can bundle up, pets have a more difficult time regulating body temperatures, the S.P.C.A. said in offering some tips to keep pets safe during the extreme temperatures. 

First and foremost, cats and dogs should be kept indoors. In Suffolk County, it is illegal to tether, leash, secure, tie, pen, or confine a dog outside when the temperature dips below 32 degrees. Dogs left outdoors unattended can get frostbite or even become disoriented, leaving them to wander and freeze to death. 

"Hypothermia can result from extended exposure to cold and is a life-threatening condition," the S.P.C.A. said. Be on the lookout for signs of frostbite. An animal's skin can turn red, white, or gray and become scaly. If frostbite is suspected, seek a veterinarian's care immediately. 

Dr. Sarah Alward, a veterinarian who owns Hamptons Housecalls, said snow and ice can mask scents that help animals find home. "In weather like this, pets should absolutely stay inside," she said. "Just as you would never leave a pet in your car in the summer, don't leave them in there in the winter either." 

She urged pet owners to be cautious of heated dog beds or space heaters, which have the potential to cause burns or fires. 

Dogs that are older, very young, sick, or have short hair are more susceptible to the cold weather. These dogs should only go outside so that they can relieve themselves. If a dog frequently lifts up his paws, whines, or stops on walks, the dog's feet may be uncomfortably cold and that dog may be in need of dog booties.

A dog's feet should be cleaned after they go out for walks. Snow can build up in paws, especially on hairy feet, Dr. Alward said. Salt can irritate or burn the pads of a dog's feet, or cause vomiting and even seizures, according to the S.P.C.A. "It's also a good idea to use pet-safe ice melt," she said.

Antifreeze, which has a sweet, attractive smell to pets, is deadly if ingested. It should be stored properly, away from kids and pets, and spills should be cleaned up promptly, she said.

When it comes to feral or outdoor cats, they may seek refuge by warm car engines. The S.P.C.A. suggests banging on the hood of your car before starting it to scare away any cats that may have crawled under it.  

"If your pet is acting strangely, seems uncomfortable, paws seem sore, is limping or showing any other signs of illness, you should contact your veterinarian right away," Dr. Alward said. "A good relationship with your veterinarian is essential to protecting your pets during the winter months, as well as the summer months."