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How to Keep Pets Safe in Cold Weather

Playing in the snow together is a great way to bond with your pets. Just watching your cat or dog react to the first snowfall can be a lot of fun in itself! Cold weather brings safety concerns for your pets along with the snow. Here are some tips to help you winter-proof your pets.

Keeping Warm

It’s natural to assume that our pets may not be feeling the cold as much as we do—after all, they are covered in fur! While longhaired breeds do have better protection against the cold, they are still susceptible to hypothermia and frostbite. Dress shorthaired breeds appropriately for the weather, and make extra sure that pets without a coat on stay dry. Fur rapidly loses its ability to insulate once it becomes wet.

Regardless of breed, no pet should be outdoors for prolonged periods of time when the temperatures dip below freezing.

Protecting Skin & Paws

Harsh conditions and road salt can do a number on dog’s paws. Trim long fur between their toes to help prevent a buildup of snow underneath their paws. Apply protective balm for dog paws before heading outdoors. It's also important to rinse a dog's paws of road salt after each walk and consider purchasing dog boots.

The dry indoor conditions can cause irritation and itching for both cats and dogs. Maintain an indoor humidity level of at least 30% for your pets and your own comfort. Consider adding a supplement to your pet’s food during winter such as fish oil (to maintain skin moisture) or biotin for dogs (recommended for itching and winter allergies).

Fueling Up

Animals spending a great deal of time outside in the cold will need extra calories in their diet to help fuel their metabolism. If you have a dog, talk to your vet about adjusting your dog’s diet, especially if it is a working dog that is frequently outdoors.

If you feed your pets outdoors, their food and water can easily freeze. Move their dishes to a sheltered location or buy heated feeding dishes. Don’t put water dishes inside a shelter for your pets where it may easily spill and freeze. The Humane Society has several great tips for keeping food and water warm for outdoor feral cats.

Car Safety

Many antifreeze and de-icing products are toxic and need to be kept away from pets. Be sure to wipe up any spills. Consider using products that contain propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol.

If you live in an area with outdoor cats, it’s a good idea to knock a few times on the hood of your car before starting it up in the morning. Cats tend to seek shelter underneath vehicles or inside wheel wells.

It’s also a good idea to add a few pet-related items to your winter car emergency kit. A towel and blanket, a leash, and some food and water are all great items to have on hand.

By: Dr. Clayton Greenway, B.Sc., DVM

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Disclaimer: Our authors do not endorse any products or services that may have been mentioned. All advice presented is not meant to replace a regular physical exam and consultation with your primary veterinarian. We always encourage you to seek medical advice from your regular veterinarian.

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