Pets can suffer from exposure to extreme cold, and a heated bed can make household pets such as cats and dogs more comfortable. Aging and arthritic pets especially can appear to experience improved quality of life when their beds provide low therapeutic heat. Heated pet beds can be safe, provided you understand your pet's needs and use appropriate caution.
In its winter 2009 "Newsletter of the Community Practice Service," the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine reported that heated pet beds can be used safely indoors and can even be used in an outdoor dog house as long as an electrical cord can be extended safely to reach the area. Regardless of whether the bed is used indoors or in a dry outside shelter, it's important to make sure the heated pet bed is not too hot. If it feels too hot for you, then it's too hot for your dog.
For any pet bed with an electrical cord, pet owners should make sure that the cord is protected. A dog or cat could chew through an unprotected cord, exposing the pet to the danger of electrocution. Pet cord protectors are available from many pet supply stores.
Options and Alternatives
Other energy sources in addition to household power are available to heat pet beds. If your dog travels by car in cold weather, you may want a pet blanket that is not only heated by household electricity, but has an adapter to 12-volt power. Another option uses microwave energy to generate heat that is stored in a covered pad. The heat pad is placed in a microwave oven for about five minutes, then tucked into a safe pad cover and placed in the dog's bed. The pad can retain heat for up to about 12 hours. Advantages are that the heat does not exceed 102 degrees Fahrenheit (the maximum safe and comfortable temperature for a heated pet bed), there is no cord danger, and the cover can be removed and cleaned easily.
Additionally, pet beds are available with all-season temperature adaptation, not only providing heat, but also cooling. For pet owners who live in areas with extremes of both hot and cold climate, purchasing a pet bed that provides heating and cooling can make sense.
A pet bed with a fully washable cover is preferable. An important caution is not to re-purpose an old electric blanket intended for human use. First, electric blankets can exceed 102 degrees F and injure pets. Secondly, pets may roll around, burrow under, fold and otherwise subject the bed cover to misuse, thereby causing a fire hazard and increasing the danger from exposed electrical wires.
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