- Rachel Doran
Pet Safety in Cold Weather
We're in the thick of winter, and while we don't get the harshest of weather, there are still some pet cold weather tips you should keep in mind. After all, the fluffy slippers we all got for the holidays are being broken in, the heaters are kicking on, and the hot chocolate is flowing like Niagara Falls.
Most of us know how to keep ourselves warm and comfortable during the cold-weather season, but it can be a little nuanced with our pets. Although it would be incredibly adorable, most of our housepets aren’t interested in wearing matching hats and scarves. They already have a fur coat, is that enough to keep them warm? And if so, for how long? Plus, to make it even more complicated our dogs don’t have the options to use the restroom indoors like us humans and cats do, so hibernating inside until spring is, unfortunately, not an option.
If this has you feeling a little hopeless, don’t go away quite yet because we have made it our mission to simplify winterizing your pets. We’ve scoured the internet to find some of the best tips, tricks, and shortcuts to keeping your pets warm, snug, and happy all winter long.
Pet Safety in Cold Weather Tip #1: Check your Pet’s Coat
It is true that all dogs and cats have their own personal, and permanent, winter coat, but it is not true that all fur coats are designed for the cold weather. Check with your vet, or consult Dr. Google to see if your pet is tolerant to cold weather.
Some dogs such as Huskies may adore the cold weather and appreciate a quick run around the yard even when you are too cold to enjoy watching. Other dogs may only be able to tolerate the cold for a few minutes before it begins to get dangerous.
Know your pet’s limits. Be very aware of the temperature, and remember, if it’s too cold for you, it’s likely too cold for them. Please never leave your pet outside for an extended period of time in the winter, no matter how tolerant they are to the cold.
Tip #2: Keep Their Paws Clean
Thankfully, snow and ice are unlikely in these parts, but it's important to know about these hazards - whether you're taking a trip to the snow or just want to be in-the-know.
One of the biggest dangers for pets in the winter, besides the freezing temperatures, is the ice melting chemicals on virtually every surface. These chemicals can come in the form of de-icer, ice-melt, or antifreeze, and it is all over the place. Even if you aren’t using any of these products yourself, it is not likely you will be able to walk around the block without some of it accumulating on your pet’s paws.
To prevent this, take steps to keep your pet’s paws clean at all times. You can do this in a couple of ways. You can opt for a simplistic approach and merely wipe their paws upon reentering your home. You can purchase some booties and make a habit of putting them on your pet every time you leave. Or you can rub some petroleum jelly on their paws before venturing outdoors to limit accumulation and keep their paws from becoming chapped.
Pet Safety in Cold Weather Tip #3: Protect Their Skin
The heat runs a lot in the winter, and that dry air can cause major damage to your pet’s sensitive skin. The cold, bitter air also doesn’t do your pet any favors in the way of providing necessary moisture. Consider running a humidifier inside to add additional moisture in the air. If it does rain, remember to dry your pet’s fur when entering your home. Snow, ice, or cold water left on your pet’s skin can cause their skin to dry, crack, or chap.
Tip #4: Look Before you Leave
Most of these tips are about protecting your own pets, but sadly, there are a good amount of stray pets that do not have humans looking out for them. This time of year can be more dangerous for stray animals. What's a simple way you can help? Check under your hood.
Small animals, especially cats, have a tendency to climb in a car’s engine or the undercarriage to stay warm and off cold, possibly wet ground. Looking before you start your car can make sure you aren’t unintentionally harming any innocent animals seeking shelter.
Pet Safety in Cold Weather Tip #5: Put a Pause on Grooming
During the winter, your pets can use all the fur they can get to keep them warm. If you typically shave your pet’s fur for aesthetics, consider letting their hair grow a little longer in the winter.
Also, bathe your pet a little less during the colder months as washing removes their skin’s natural oil and can contribute to skin issues such as chapping.
#6: Feed Them a Little Extra
Staying warm burns calories. Your pet may be a little hungrier during the colder months, and feeding them a little extra can help them to stay warm and keep their tummies full. Be careful not to overfeed, and always consult your vet before changing your pet’s diet or eating habits.
Tip #7: Use Your Best Judgement
All the advice in the world can not compete with the love you have for your pet. Go with your gut. If you think it’s too cold outside for your pet to venture out, keep them indoors. If you think your dog will enjoy the extra warmth of a sweater, purchase one. Keeping your pet safe during winter months is as simple as offering them more blankets or turning on the fireplace. Pay attention to how your pet is acting and what their preferences are, and you'll be all set. You know your pet better than anyone else ever could.
Keeping your pet warm and safe in the winter may take a little additional forethought, but if you just do what you know is best, you can’t go wrong.