GRAND RAPIDS, Mich — West Michigan winters can be brutal, but Family Friends Veterinary Hospital says it doesn’t have to be that way for pets. Dr. Randall Carpenter says he commonly sees ailments in pets, such as exposure to chemicals, burned paws and weight loss, due to the lack of knowledge regarding winter protocol. However, Carpenter says these weather-related issues can be prevented.

The doctor advises owners to keep their pets inside if it’s 20 degrees or below outside, saying “If it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for your pets.” This holds true to leaving your dog in the car while running errands. Dr. Carpenter says while various animal breeds have different levels of resistance to the cold, it’s important to be mindful of their comfort. “Being inside a car this time of year, is not really going to be much better than being outside. With the extreme weather, you don’t want to leave a pet inside an unheated car for long periods of time.”

When it comes to what certain breeds can handle, Dr. Carpenter says, “A short coated dog, should probably not be outside for more than 30 or 60 minutes, long-hair coats like Burmese Mountain Dog, or a Husky or a Malamute, those dogs really have hair coats that are equipped to handle the extreme weather.” 

When coming inside from an outdoor experience, Dr. Carpenter says to pay close attention to pets’ feet. “Take away clumped snow that may be between the toes, wipe the feet off when they come in to get salt off, so they don’t get salt burns on the feet.”

When animals are outside, he warns against letting them near anti-freeze in the winter. He says, “We can see poisoning from an oral ingestion of antifreeze, which is sweet tasting, and pets will actually drink it or lick it.”

What pets can and should consume, according to the veterinarian is plenty of food and water. “An animal that’s outside has a huge increase in nutritional requirements, so we really have to increase their feed if they’re going to be outside for an extended period of time,” Carpenter said. He also added that water in pet bowls can often freeze quickly after being poured, which makes it harder for dogs to drink it.

On a final note, Dr. Carpenter said there’s also no harm indressing your pets, “There are a number of coats and blankets available that can be used on pets that are outside, to give them extra warmth."