You can keep your pet safe in winter weather by following some basic tips to help your dog or cat negotiate the perils of the season. The harsh reality of winter has nearly everyone feeling the chill, including your pets. At Pets for Patriots, we picked through many of the helpful lists on how to keep your four-legged friends safe, healthy and warm this winter to bring you an abbreviated set of easy, mostly common sense suggestions for winter pet care.
Good for you, good for your pet
Of course, you could keep your pet inside until the spring thaw arrives, but that’s not practical or terribly fun. Take your pet to the veterinarian for a winter check-up before the bitter cold really sets in. Many factors contribute to your pet’s ability to tolerate the cold, including breed, age, size and general medical condition.
Using yourself as a measure of comfort is always a good rule of thumb. When you’re cold and ready to go inside, there’s a good chance that your pet probably is as well. Remember that you’re the boss. Don’t wait for your pet to beg you to go back in the house; that’s unlikely to happen.
Once indoors be sure to wipe your pet down, paying particular attention to its legs, feet and stomach. Otherwise, your pet could ingest salt or other harmful snow- and ice-removal chemicals that it picked up outside. Clean your pet’s foot pads, including the spaces in between where rock salt and other harmful chemicals can settle in. Small snowballs and ice pellets often get stuck in a pet’s foot bed as well, and can be painful until they either melt or are removed.
Think of what it would take to keep you warm if you spent any extended length of time in the elements. Would a fur coat be enough? If your pet has to be outside, provide a shelter that’s free from drafts, and put a blanket and wrapped hot water bottle inside.
In spite of the cold, pets can dehydrate. Always make sure your pets have fresh, clean water that isn’t frozen. Increase your dog’s or cat’s food intake slightly and in consultation with your veterinarian, since it’s burning more energy in order to stay warm.
Cats are crafty in the cold
These tips aren’t just for dogs. Cats need special attention in the cold as well, and are notorious for being able to fit into small places that might not be safe – in any weather.
During the winter months, outdoor cats will find anything and everything they can to curl up to in order to stay warm – including car engines. Before starting your car make a lot of noise by beeping the horn, or tapping and checking under the hood. Clean up any anti-freeze that may spill onto the ground; cats and dogs will mistake it for something sweet and drink it, but it is a deadly poison. Take your pet to a veterinarian immediately if it starts to show any symptoms of anti-freeze poisoning or if you’ve witnessed them drinking it.
Most of all, use common sense and be extra vigilant to any changes in your pet’s behavior or health during all types of extreme weather. Visit the American Veterinary Medical Association‘s website for more cold-weather pet safety tips.