senior pet winter safety

Cold temperatures can be tough for humans, but exposure to cold can be dangerous for senior pets. Senior pets are more sensitive to the cold and vulnerable to becoming sick.

Like most pet owners, you’re looking for ways to keep your senior pet warm during these colder months— especially in the snow and rain. Here are some tips on how to keep your senior pet healthy and happy through the winter.

Senior Pets are Susceptible to Cold Temperatures

As we age, our bodies become less efficient at producing heat. This is true for senior pets, too. In addition, older animals have less muscle mass and smaller fat reserves than when they were younger. Since older pets can’t generate as much body heat as younger animals, they need extra help to keep warm.

Provide Protection from the Elements

When walking your dog, make sure they have protection from the elements. Depending on the weather, dress them in a warm sweater or rain and snow-resistant coat. Consider bringing a blanket to bundle them into if they get too cold. And when walking in the rain, snow, or ice, dog boots (available online and in pet stores) offer protection for their paws.

Consider bringing your indoor/outdoor senior cat inside for the winter. If your cat isn’t used to being inside full-time, ease them into indoor life. Let them spend time outdoors on warmer days, but gradually increase the amount of time spent indoors. And when the temperature dips below freezing, bring them inside.

Ensure your pet’s collar has up-to-date identification information. Having your pet microchipped is ideal. That way, even if they manage to slip out of their collar, your pet can still be identified and returned to you.

And make sure your senior pet has a cozy, comfortable, draft-free area indoors to rest and sleep. Many senior pets enjoy a heated bed (available online and in pet stores). Provide blankets for snuggling and extra warmth.

Maintain Regular Exercise 

Exercise is essential for keeping your pet healthy and happy, particularly during the winter.

You can still take your pet for walks when it’s not too cold outside. Limit the length of your walks based on the temperature and how your pet reacts to the weather. When indoors, provide extra playtime for your pet to keep them engaged and active. 

If your dog enjoys playing in the snow, make sure they take frequent indoor breaks to avoid being overexposed and suffering frostbite or hypothermia. 

When your pet returns indoors after being outside on a rainy or snowy day, towel dry their coat and paws thoroughly to help them warm up. 

Watch for Signs of Frostbite or Hypothermia

Signs of hypothermia include shivering, slow breathing and pulse, and a body temperature below 95 degrees Fahrenheit. A pet with frostbite will typically have pale, gray, or bluish skin and experience numbness and pain.

First aid for both conditions involves getting your pet warm and dry (without rubbing the skin) and taking them to the vet immediately.

Watch for Changes in Behavior

If your friendly, outgoing pet suddenly seems withdrawn, depressed, or anxious, they may need extra TLC during the colder, darker months.

  • Some pets experience a decreased appetite during the winter. To encourage normal eating and drinking, try heating their food and water to about ten degrees warmer than room temperature to make it more appealing. 
  • If you’ve noticed that your senior pet has lost weight rapidly over a few weeks (or even days), see your vet to ensure there are no underlying issues.
  • Always keep an eye out for signs of illness or injury.

Arlington Animal Hospital is Here For You

Remember: If it’s too cold outside for you, it’s probably too cold for your senior pet. If you have questions about caring for your senior pet or would like to schedule an appointment, contact us today.