Pet owners in Bartow, Florida, can easily be forgiven for thinking that living in the Sunshine State’s generally mild climate means their pets are immune to winter weather challenges. However, ensuring the safety and well-being of your furry companion in colder temperatures is crucial in Florida, too. Unexpected chilly spells can impact a pet’s health, so pet owners need to be aware of cold weather safety measures.

While extra precautions for pets are necessary in winter, separating fact from fiction about wintertime pet safety is equally important. If you and your pet plan on traveling this winter where the weather is much colder than Florida, you must familiarize yourself with the common myths about cold weather and pets. Knowing the truth will ensure your four-legged friend is safe and comfortable when you head outside to build a snowdog.

Myth: A pet’s fur coat is all the protection they need in cold weather

Reality: Like people, pets can suffer in cold weather, blustery winds, and freezing precipitation. Short-haired breeds, pediatric and elderly pets, and those with pre-existing health conditions are especially vulnerable to the cold, and these at-risk pets must have proper protection, such as sweaters and booties, to keep them warm.

Proper grooming also helps your pet stay warm in cold weather. Regular brushing removes dead hair and eliminates tangles and mats that work against the fur’s natural thermoregulatory abilities. A well-groomed coat insulates your pet by trapping warm air next to their skin and keeps them comfortable.

Myth: Pets are unable to get frostbite

Reality: In windy, damp, cold weather, pets, particularly those with exposed skin or thin fur, are susceptible to frostbite, which most commonly affects areas with minimal fat or fur protection, like the ears, paws, and nose. To prevent frostbite in your pet, limit outdoor time in freezing conditions, use protective cold-weather gear, and monitor your four-legged friend for hypothermia or frostbite warning signs.

Myth: Pets can eat snow to stay hydrated

Reality: Eating snow may seem harmless, but pets should not eat snow for hydration. Snow can be contaminated with pollutants or chemicals, particularly ice-melt salt, and eating too much can lead to hypothermia. Ensure your pet has access to fresh, clean water at all times.

Myth: Pets need more food in the winter

Reality: While increasing your pet’s food intake during the colder months to keep them warm seems intuitive, overfeeding can lead to health issues other than providing additional warmth. This oversimplification overlooks that a pet’s nutritional needs are based on factors such as size, age, and activity level, and not the outside temperature.

The opposite is actually the case. Since pets generally spend more time indoors and are less active during the winter, they require fewer calories. Adjust your pet’s caloric intake as needed to prevent wintertime weight gain.

Myth: Pets’ paws are impervious to cold surfaces

Reality: It’s a common misconception that pets’ paws are naturally equipped to handle extremely cold or hot surfaces without any issues. Their paw pads do have some insulation—that much is true—but they are not immune to the frigid temperatures. Prolonged exposure to icy surfaces can still cause discomfort, frostbite, and other issues. 

To protect your pet’s paws during winter walks, consider pet-safe booties, which provide an extra insulation layer, prevent direct contact with icy surfaces, and shield your pet’s paws from sharp ice fragments and toxic chemicals, adding to your pet’s cold weather comfort and safety. Also, a pet who licks their unprotected paws after a walk may ingest dangerous ice-melting chemicals or antifreeze, resulting in toxicity. By outfitting your furry pal in waterproof booties while outside, and wiping off their paws, legs, and abdomen when you return inside, you can remove hazardous chemicals.

Myth: Pets won’t get dehydrated in cold weather

Reality: While pets are much more likely to become dehydrated during sizzling summer weather, inadequate wintertime water intake can also lead to dehydration. Encourage your pet to stay hydrated as winter weather dries out the air by keeping plenty of fresh, clean water available, adding canned food to their diet, or moistening dry food with water.

Myth: Leaving pets in the car is safe in winter

Reality: Although cars shield pets from frigid wind and precipitation, they can act like refrigerators in cold weather, trapping freezing air inside. Leaving your pet unattended in a cold car can lead to hypothermia, so leave your furry pal at home while you run errands.

When you know the reality behind the common myths, you can better protect your pet and ensure their well-being during the winter season. If your furry pal experiences a wintertime mishap, contact our Bartow Animal Clinic team for help.