Winter Weather Affects Pets Too

Kate Morey, Features Managing Editor

Being a pet owner is a big responsibility, especially when it comes to ensuring a pet’s safety and well-being. Living in Maryland, the climate is very inconsistent, especially when transitioning into the colder months.
Sometimes the temperature can be 80 degrees one day and 45 the next. Winter weather and its effects can take a toll on pets and their health. When dogs get too cold, they can develop hypothermia, or worse, frostbite. Dogs and many other pets are susceptible to colds and diseases just like humans, so it is important to keep them comfortable during the extra cold winter months.
Every pet’s cold tolerance is different, depending on their coat, body fat storage and temperatures, activity level and health. Elderly and arthritic pets could have more difficulty walking on snow and ice and may slip or fall more easily. Short-haired pets feel the cold more quickly because their coats provide less protection, making them more susceptible to diseases and/or sickness.
Weather can also affect your pet’s mood. According to a survey by the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals, a UK based veterinary charity, as many as one in three dog owners have noticed the depression-like symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) in their dogs, and half of them reported that their dogs slept more in the winter months, a warning sign of SAD.
In a Twitter poll of 64 people, 56 percent said that winter weather and extreme cold conditions have little to no affect on how they care for their pets.
“[My dog] is more energetic in the winter so we walk her more, and the time change also messes up her eating schedule, so she’s hungrier earlier which can be frustrating,” sophomore Heather Parks said. “But it doesn’t make that much of a difference in how we take care of her.”
Other types of pets, such as turtles and other nondomestic animals, have different winter tendencies than other average house pets. Junior Alex Fellman owns rescued Eastern painted turtles that live in slow moving fresh waters.
“During the winter, they typically hibernate from early November to March, depending on the temperature, Fellman said. “We try to keep them in colder and darker rooms that we don’t use often so that we don’t disturb them. Then when they wake up we move them to a more warm and room.”
Many students at RHS own less typical pets who need special care that most house pets do not need. Freshman Luke Marple owns chickens that live outside year round in a coop. They can live comfortably for most of the year, but they need some assistance during the winter.
“My chickens can survive up to 20 degrees, but once it gets below that we have to help them by putting a lamp in their coop and heating it up for them,” Marple said. “They usually stop laying eggs [in the winter].”
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is an organization committed to reducing suffering and to creating meaningful social change for animals.
They do so by advocating for sensible public policies, investigating cruelty, working to enforce existing laws, educating the public about animal issues, joining with corporations on behalf of animal-friendly policies and conducting hands-on programs that create a more humane world.
According to their website, “The [HSUS] provides hands-on care and services to more than 100,000 animals each year, and we professionalize the field through education and training for local organizations. We are the leading animal advocacy organization, seeking a humane world for people and animals alike.”
Their website provides people with precautions to take in the winter for their pets, how to ensure their safety and what to do when an animal is left outside in the cold. Like humans, pets have basic rights, and require more care in the frigid cold.
Taking care of pets during the winter is a very important responsibility because their entire life revolves around their owner’s care, which makes them especially vulnerable to the chilly season.