(Wyoming) - Even though it has been warm this week in Sheridan, temperatures are low in the mountains, and will likely drop before the winter is over. We know how to keep ourselves warm and safe during the wintertime, but how do we protect our furry family members? Dally sister-site Buckrail
caught up with Dr. Dan
Forman, DVM (Doctor of Veterinary Medicine), at Spring Creek Animal
Hospital in Jackson to get some tips on how to care for your pets in the
*How Cold is Too Cold?*
The answer is it depends, according to Dr. Forman. It depends on the type
of animal, the type of fur they have and how they have been acclimated to
"The level of previous climatization plays a huge role," he said. "If you
have a dog that spends most of his or her time outdoors than that dog will
likely tolerate the cold better than a dog that is used to being in a 72
degree household environment."
Temperatures dipped to -7 in Jackson recently, and Dr. Forman said that it
isn't tenable for any animal to be outside without proper shelter. He
explains that a proper shelter should be well insulated and have a safe
"The key is to make sure that the heat source doesn't cause it's own issues
with either an electrical fire hazard, overheating or burns," he added.
Dr. Forman recommends taking your pet outside for short amounts of time and
slowly increasing that time to get them acclimated to the cold.
"The dogs do need to get used to going out to do their business, get fresh
air, get a little mental stimulation and get some exercise," he said.
*Protect their Paws*
According to Dr. Forman, there are several ways to protect your pets paws
on the snow and ice.
First, there are booties that you can purchase that are made by several
reputable companies. He does recommend that you do not skimp on the price
of booties because poorly made products can cause sores.
"Bring your dog with you to the pet store to have them fitted for the
booties there, don't just measure the feet and buy a pair," he said. "And
then have the dog walk around in them in the pet store if the store allows
He also recommends that you have your dog initially wear the booties around
the house to get used to them. Only do this for short amounts of time,
because the dog could get overheated.
Another way to protect your pet is to use a product called Musher's Secret
to prevent ice balls from forming on their paws. Dr. Forman said an old
trick is to use non-stick Pam spray on the dog's feet, in-between their
paws and very lightly on the bottom of their feet to prevent ice balls.
"If a dog gets an ice ball in his paws it can be really really painful," he
said. "It can be difficult to remove outside and then causes a wet mess
*Watch for Frostbite and Hypothermia*
Just like people, pets can get frostbite and hypothermia.
"We typically see frostbite on the ear tips, because that is where there is
less circulation," said Dr. Forman. "We also see it on the tips of the tail
or the nose, but that isn't as common as the tips of the ear."
Specifically, upright ears on cats and dogs are more susceptible to
There are several stages of frostbite. In the first stages, you will see
redness and puffiness, hypersensitivity to touch, your pet shying away from
being touched on the head and irritability. He also recommends that you
look for discoloration.
Some of the other ways to tell if your pets are having difficulty with the
- Hop scotching in the cold (moving their feet up and down quickly)
- If they become more huddled
- If they are shivering
- Acting uncomfortable
- Acting more withdrawn
Dr. Forman often sees animals lose tips of their ears and tips of their
tails due to frostbite.
*Don't Forget About Dehydration and Sunburn in the Winter*
"When we are outside, especially in the cold we tend to forget that we are
losing a lot of moisture from our bodies," said Dr. Forman. "Dehydration is
a really big issue."
He recommends keeping a heated bowl outside to promote water consumption
for his dogs before and after winter walks.
"We do see a lot of sunburns in dogs. Especially on the nose and on the
eyelids," he said.
He doesn't recommend sunscreen, because dogs often lick it right off, but
to slowly acclimate the pets to sunny days, just like you will acclimate
them to the cold.
Finally, Dr. Forman recommends that if you think something is wrong with
your furry friend, just call your vet.
"When in doubt, call your vet. I think that is the most important thing,"
said Dr. Forman. "Animal hospitals in general are an extremely invaluable
resource for the pet owner. Most hospitals are more than willing to help
people out over the phone."
"You as a pet owner know your family members the best," he added.
*Feature Photo: h/t Paul Morris / Pitchengine Communities*