Remember, with domestication comes more than just a cute nose and wagging tail – reliance on human beings comes along too. Unless all of you happen to be lucky enough to live in lovely Southern California (and even if you do), an outdoor pet is at risk for hypothermia and even frostbite.
Prevention is the best way to treat either. Sure, your pet (most likely) has fur, but fur only goes so far in combatting extreme winter weather. Domestic dog coats just aren’t what their wolf ancestors’ coats used to be. So add on the layers! Heating pads in dog houses, extra blankets, even those slightly torturous dog sweaters are all justified this time of year. If you have an outdoor pet, make sure to get a heated water bowl or otherwise continually replace the water so that it doesn’t just turn into a useless ice block. Proper hydration is just as important in the cold as it is in the heat.
Know the signs of trouble, too. Piloerection (aka goosebumps), pale to black-ish skin, shivering, and weakness are all signs that hypothermia and frostbite could be setting in. If you want to be super scientific about it, a rectal temperature below 99.5 degrees Fahrenheit for dogs is a sign of trouble.
So what do you do if your pet does happen to fall prey to Jack Frost? Blankets, blankets, blankets! And the vet. Most definitely the vet. A veterinarian will know how to best analyze the extent of trouble going on and have the most comprehensive resources to help out your pet.
Of course, I recommend that you consider letting your outdoor pet come indoors for the cold weather, even if just at night. Even if your companion is hardy enough to protect against the most dangerous outcomes of nippy weather, it’s still not fair to make your pet deal with the discomfort of extreme conditions. You wouldn’t want to sleep outside in the winter, even if you had a parka, would you? No? I thought not.
So remember, this Christmas season, your pet’s best gift and defense against the cold – is you.