I don’t know what it’s like in your neck of the woods, but we just got a blast of winter weather here in Denver, with heavy snow and temperatures falling into the teens at night. I thought now would be a good time to talk about winter pet safety tips to keep all of our furry friends safe and happy during the cold months ahead.
Keep Pets Indoors: Keep your dog or cat indoors as much as possible when it’s especially cold out. If it’s too cold for you to be out, it’s probably too cold for your pet to be outside, too. If you do take your cat or dog outside, make sure it’s only for a short period of time. You might want to consider putting a sweater or jacket on your dog for walks in cold weather. It’s a good idea to invest in a few sweaters or coats for your dog so that you can use a dry one each time you take your dog outside. A wet coat or sweater will actually make your dog colder.
Provide Shelter: If you have outdoor dogs or cats, make sure they have access to a sturdy shelter. (An article on caring for feral cats in winter is coming to the CB soon). Make sure the shelter floor is a few inches off the ground. The shelter should be big enough for your pet to sit and lay down in but small enough to contain his body heat. Make sure the entry is facing away from heavy wind and is covered with heavy plastic or a piece of heavy waterproof fabric. Line the shelter’s floor with straw or cedar shavings.
Provide Extra Food and Water: If you have outdoor dogs or cats, provide them a little extra food and water in the winter months. Cats and dogs use more energy during the colder months to stay warm.
Use plastic bowls instead of stainless steel ones during wintertime to prevent your pet’s tongue from freezing to the metal. You can use a heated water bowl to help prevent your pet’s water from freezing in cold temperatures.
Check Your Vehicle Before Starting It Up: A warm vehicle is a tempting place for cats and other small animals to stay warm in the cold weather. Bang on your vehicle’s hood and honk the horn before you start your vehicle’s engine to encourage animals to get out from under the hood.
Don’t Leave Pets in Cars: Don’t leave your pet in your car. Vehicles can get very cold and put your pet in danger.
Prevent Poisoning: Antifreeze is a lethal poison, but because it tastes sweet, it can attract animals. Clean up antifreeze spills immediately. Store antifreeze in a secure location not accessible to pets.
Rock salt is another common poison to pets. Dogs are especially prone to rock salt poisoning when they lick it off their paws after being outdoors. Use a damp cloth to wipe your dog’s paws, legs, and tummy off every time he comes in from being outside, even if you only went for a short walk. Wipe your dog’s paw pads and between his toes. If you think your dog has ingested rock salt, call your veterinarian right away.
Coolants and antifreeze made with propylene glycol are safer for pets. However, you should still clean up spills right away and store these chemicals in a place not accessible to pets.
Stay Away from Frozen Bodies of Water: It might sound like fun to let your dog play on a frozen lake or pond, but you don’t know if the ice will support your dog’s weight. If your dog falls through the ice, his life could be in danger.
Disaster Preparedness: Blizzards can leave you stuck at home for days. Make sure you have an emergency kit and enough food, water, and medication for your pet for at least five days on hand.
Watch for Hypothermia: Hypothermia occurs when an animal’s body temperature drops too low. If you notice your dog shivering, trying to curl up, looking for somewhere warm to burrow, seems weak, or is lethargic, take him inside immediately as these are signs of hypothermia. If you think your dog is suffering from hypothermia, contact your veterinarian or nearest veterinary hospital right away.
Prove a Warm Place to Sleep: Remember that even indoor pets can get chilly during the wintertime. Provide your cat or dog with several comfortable sleeping places so he can choose where he feels most comfortable. Try providing a spot or two off the floor for sleeping. A slightly raised bed or hammock would be great choices.
Remember that very young and elderly pets as well as those who have chronic health issues may be more sensitive to cold temperatures.
I hope these tips allow you to safely enjoy all of your winter activities with your pet this year!
Sierra M. Koester has been writing in the pet space since 2006. She runs the blog Fur Everywhere. She joined the awesome team at The Cat Blogosphere as Content Manager in June, 2022. She is currently working on editing her upcoming anthology, Purrseverance, a collection of stories about cats who have overcome challenges in their lives from their perspective. Sierra’s home is ruled by her two special needs cats, Carmine and Tylan, who are the center of Sierra’s world.