As fall weather settles in on New England and the trees begin their beautiful turn toward winter, many people are gearing up to battle the cold that inevitably swallows New England whole. Unfortunately for our four-legged friends, too many people believe their fur coats are adequate enough to handle the bone-chilling temperatures.
Dogs and cats have either single or double coats, or are hairless. Single coats are often referred to as hair, while double coats are referred to as fur. Breeds such as the German shepherd, Siberian husky or golden retriever have a double coat, whereas breeds such as the boxer, pit bull and poodle have a single coat of hair. The type of fur coat your pooch has makes a big difference in how they handle the cold or heat.
Double-coated dogs have an undercoat of fur, while single-coated dogs do not. The undercoat acts as an insulator to keep them cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Single-coated dogs lack this undercoat and therefore get cold easily in the winter. However, just because a dog, even a Siberian husky, has a double coat, doesn't mean they can be left outside in the cold. Aside from a dog's coat not being adequate enough to keep warm in the harsh winters, other features are not well protected, such as the nose and paws.
An animal's paws are actually quite sensitive, and the cold and ice can do a number on them. Damage to the paws may happen when the pads stick to the ice, much like your skin becoming stuck to the ice. Animals left out in the cold are susceptible to hypothermia, frostbite and skin problems. Snow and ice can become embedded in their fur, weighing the animal down or causing the animal to get lodged in places he can't get out of.
Pets should not be left outside during cold weather. Double-coated pets can handle the cold better than single-coated pets. However, they can all fall prey to the ice, wind chills and other winter-related problems such as antifreeze, salts and ice melt. The MSPCA has tips on keeping your pets safe during the cold, winter months. Keep your outdoor trips to a minimum and don't be afraid to don your pet in sweaters, coats and booties to keep them warm and comfortable.