Well, winter is definitely here. It took its time but over the weekend it definitely came in with a bang and, depending where you live, a foot or two of snow. As we venture outdoors to enjoy the snow, we have to not only worry about protecting ourselves from the elements, but also protecting our pets.

Despite their thick fur and love of the outdoors, our pets are in danger of developing hypothermia.

It doesn’t have to be freezing for us or our pets to become too cold. If you have an outside cat or a dog that enjoys winter sports, or just playing outside in the snow, you should know what the signs of hypothermia are and how to treat it.

Despite appearing to enjoy himself, this puppy can still develop hypothermia, which is why time spent outside should be closely monitored.

All dressed up and can still get hypothermia. While these outfits are really cute, they don’t guarantee that your pet doesn’t need to be watched.

Hypothermia is caused when the body’s core temperature falls below its normal temperature. Pets that get too cold can experience a mild (90–99 degrees F), moderate (82–90 degrees F) or severe (less than 82 degrees F) drop in temperature. A dog’s normal body temperature is 101 to 102.5, and a cat’s normal temperature is 100.4 to 102.5, according to Pet MD.

A healthy and well-groomed coat provides dogs and cats with protection from the cold. The fur traps their body heat next to the skin, keeping them warm, but if they get wet, or the coat is matted, they lose all insulating protection which leaves them at risk of becoming too cold.

Smaller dogs tend to become chilled faster than larger dogs. Pets that live outside grow a heavier coat during the winter months, but it’s important to keep a close eye on them and follow wintertime tips for proper care. Outside pets should always be brought inside during extremely cold periods, especially with a wind chill.

Proper shelter is a must for outside pets. Wind chill affects our pets just like it does us.

Frostbite also occurs when a pet gets cold. To compensate for a drop in temperature, the body redirects blood to circulate around vital organs to protect what’s most important, which leaves the ears, tail, nose, footpads and legs susceptible to frostbite.

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