As temperatures continue to drop across Central Texas, veterinarians are issuing reminders for pet owners to keep their animals safe.
"I think the biggest misconception is that because they have fur, they can take it. Or that they enjoy it," said Dr. Hindatu Mohammed who works at the Allandale Veterinary Clinic in Austin.
Dr. Mohammed notes that dogs react differently to the weather based on a variety of factors, which range from hair length, age, breed and size.
"Some pets do actually like the cold weather more than other pets, but you do really have to pay attention to your particular pet and look for cues that they're giving you that they're uncomfortable. So trembling, shaking, not wanting to go out for a walk – listen to those pets and don't take them outside," said Dr. Mohammed.
The difference is apparent to Margot Clarke, who has two dogs -- a 13-year-old mutt named Jack and a 6-year-old Redbone Coonhound named Rhett. While Jack's coat provides protection from the cold, Rhett isn't as fortunate.
"I was outside, working on some plumbing situations and (Rhett) was right there next to me and was just curled up on the ground -- I could see him quivering, I was like, 'Let's put you back inside,'" said Clarke. She said she makes sure both of her pets stay hydrated while battling the cold.
Whenever possible, Dr. Mohammed suggests animals remain inside instead of having to deal with the frigid conditions.
"I know that it may seem that they're okay, but pets are notoriously more stoic than we are, and they don't always show signs of hypothermia or just discomfort to the cold as readily as we would. But they absolutely do benefit from being indoors at a time like this," said Dr. Mohammed.
If you do need to take them outside, Dr. Mohammed suggests they wear a sweater or jacket. Pets in normally warm-weathered climates are particularly susceptible to cold weather-induced ailments.
"Our pets aren't used to some of the extreme temperatures other animals may be used to. So we see a fair amount of issues with frostbite on the paws -- cracked paws, bleeding paws," Dr. Mohammed said.
Any signs of altered behavior, specifically if a pet is acting lethargic or sluggish, could be an indicator of sickness and a need to bring them to the veterinarian.
"A lot of times, in fact, if an animal's temperature is too low, they really won't be able to digest food, and most of them won't want to eat it. So I say the best thing would be to try and gradually increase their temperature. So you don't want to take them for example and put them in a warm bath, because that's going to be too dramatic of a shift. But slowly increasing their temperature with blankets -- having them indoors – that's going to be the best way to go," said Dr. Mohammed.
On Thursday, the City of San Marcos released tips for pet owners to follow to keep their pets safe:
- Keep pets inside out of severe cold
- If pets are outside, provide a doghouse with door away from the wind
- Line doghouse with straw or cedar shavings
- Make sure they have access to fresh water and food
- Do not leave antifreeze, coolant or windshield wiper fluid within reach
- Make sure your cat hasn't crawled under the car hood for warmth