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12 Ways To Protect Your Pet In Cold Weather

Make sure your four-footed family members are warm when they are outside, especially on ice and in the snow. Here are a few cold-weather protection tips to keep your pets safe and healthy during the winter.

By: Sylvia Slezak | Nov 2019

Pug covered in a blanket Pug covered in a blanket photo by Matthew Henry

Even with the benefit of a fur coat, your dog or cat can still feel the colder temperatures. Humans and pets aren’t meant to withstand extremely cold conditions. According to the American Humane Society, the rule of thumb should be that “if it’s not safe for you, it’s not safe for your pets.” Here are a dozen ways to keep your pet safe this winter:

1. Keep them covered

Short-coated, thin, elderly, or very young dogs get cold more quickly and their extremities, like the ears, nose, and paws, are the most prone to frostbite. Add a sweater or coat and slip on some booties for protection and warmth. Your pet might be experiencing hypothermia if they start to shiver and act sluggish. The best thing to do then is to get the blankets and warm them up. If the symptoms don’t subside quickly, take your pet to the vet.

2. Limit outdoor time

Taking short walks more frequently is better than longer ones when the weather is brisk. If overly exerted, dogs can pull and tear muscles.

3. Caution around snow & ice

A snowfall could mask scents along the route home and cover up familiar landmarks that may cause your dog to get lost. Make sure your pet’s identification tags and microchips are current and safely confined. When snow melts and refreezes, the ice can be razor sharp and hurt your pet’s paws. Best to be very careful around slick, icy surfaces, especially a frozen pond or a lake, where your pet could slip and hurt themselves, or fall through the ice.

4. Avoid spills

Sweet-tasting and greenish in appearance, antifreeze attracts cats and dogs. If ingested, it is extremely poisonous and can cause kidney failure. Make sure your pet doesn’t drink from any puddles while on walks. Also, check under your car for antifreeze leaks and always use pet-safe, non-toxic antifreeze. Be sure to clean up any antifreeze that spills in your garage, and store it away from your pet’s access.

5. Wipe their paws

During winter walks, your dog’s paws can pick up all kinds of toxic chemicals – salt, antifreeze, or de-icers. Wipe their paws with a damp cloth to be sure your pet doesn’t lick off any harmful chemical residue. While wiping off their paws, remember to check for signs of injury, such as cracked or bleeding paws. Licking salt can cause excessive thirst and if your pet drinks too much water as a result, the salt in the body retains extra water, which might lead to brain swelling, coma, or seizures.

6. Keep them leashed

Prevent your pet from becoming lost by keeping them leashed on walks. Make sure their collars have current contact information and they are microchipped in case the two of you get separated. More pets become lost in the winter than any other season because snowfall can disguise recognizable scents that would normally help them find their way home.

7. Leave them home

Never leave your pet unattended in your car. Cold cars pose a threat to pets the same way as hot cars do in the summer. Only take your pet in the car when necessary.

8. Be seen

Keep your dog close when walking them in the dark, and wear reflective gear (clothing, leash, collar, etc) for the safety of you and your dog.

9. Provide outdoor shelter

While ideally pets should live inside, if you are unable to keep your pet inside during cold weather, you should provide them with a warm, solid shelter against wind. Even if your pet primarily lives outdoors, take them indoors during sub-zero temperatures.

If your pet spends time in the backyard, it’s essential to have a shelter to help protect them from the elements. That shelter should be dry, draft-free, and large enough to allow them to sit and lie down comfortably, yet small enough to conserve body heat. The floor should be covered with cedar shavings or straw and raised a few inches off the ground. The shelter should face away from the wind and its doorway should be covered with waterproof burlap or heavy plastic. Keep in mind that when your pet spends much of its time outside, they will need more food to replace energy lost from trying to stay warm. Also use food and water dishes made of plastic instead of metal to prevent your pet’s tongue from getting stuck to the metal when the temperature drops low enough.

10. Provide inside warmth

It’s important to give your pet extra tender loving care when they get older and have weak joints and bones. A self-warming pad and an extra-fluffy raised bed can help keep your pet toasty through the winter. Brush them instead of bathing to prevent a post-bath chill.

11. Check under the hood

You never know what unwanted guests could be under the hood of your vehicle. Cats love curling up in places like car engine compartments and inside the wheel wells during the winter months to keep warm. If you start your car and a cat is sleeping on your tire, it can be severely hurt or even killed by moving engine parts. To prevent injuries, bang loudly on your hood or honk the horn before starting your car. This should wake up the cat and give it a chance to escape.

12. Be prepared

Power outages can be brought on by extreme winter weather. Have an emergency plan that includes your pet, and a kit with enough food, water, and medication to last your pet for at least five days. You may never need it, but if you do, you’ll be grateful that you planned ahead.

Taking good care of your pet can be rewarding. Search on to find sweaters, coats, booties, fluffy beds, and more at pet boutiques.

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