Written by Jessica McCawley
With winter on its way and temperatures already starting to drop, it’s time to think about what changes you may need to make to keep your pets safe this winter. Here are 7 tips on how to keep your critters happy, comfy, and cozy:
1. Pamper their paws. Make sure to check your dog’s paws after being outside for any sign of injury or debris such as ice, rocks, and residue from deicers. Consider investing in some booties for extra protection from the elements (and style points!). If you have a cat who likes to go outside, be sure to check their paws, too.
2. Give them a cozy corner. Cold pets may cuddle around heat sources such as space heaters, fireplaces, and radiators, which could be dangerous. Place a pet-proof barrier in front of heat sources to keep them from getting too close. If they have a favorite spot on the floor, warm it up with a bed or some blankets. Arthritis may act up during cold spells, so give your older pets a ramp or set of stairs to use if they can’t jump to their usual spot on the couch.
3. Be mindful of chemicals. Many chemicals used for winterizing vehicles (such as antifreeze) are extremely toxic to pets. If you must use them, store antifreeze and deicers where your pets can’t get to them and clean up any spills immediately. Salt and other deicers often contain chemicals that can be harmful to pads or if ingested by licking, so clean your pet’s paws as soon as possible after being outside and consider opting for pet-friendly deicers for your walkways.
4. Take care of their coats. Though grooming is important year-round, bathe your pet as little as possible during cold months to prevent dry, flaky skin. When bath time does come around, opt for moisturizing shampoos and be sure your pet is completely dry before letting them outside. For outdoor activities, get a sweater or coat for young, old, or shorthaired pets to help protect them from the cold. Avoid shaving your pet during cold months unless necessary for medical procedures, and give them a sweater if they need one, too.
5. Limit and supervise outdoor time. As a general rule, if it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for them. Try to plan outside time within daylight hours when temperatures are warmer and bring your pet in as soon as they’re ready. If they start shivering, looking for a place to burrow, or showing other signs of getting too cold, bring them in immediately. Even if your dog is trained to be off leash, play it safe and always keep them on a leash when going for walks. Avoid walking over frozen ponds and lakes.
6. Set up an outdoor cat shelter. If you live in an area with feral, stray, or other outdoor cats, it may be a good idea to build a shelter for them. Pinterest and YouTube have several DIY versions, most involving a plastic storage tote, a styrofoam cooler, and straw, towels, or blankets for insulation. You could also buy pre-made shelters if DIY isn’t your thing. No matter which way you do it, a shelter can protect outdoor cats from cold, rain, wind, snow, and predators.
7. Be prepared. Winter weather brings the potential for power outages and getting snowed in for multiple days. Along with your human preparedness kit for these situations, make sure you have plenty of food, water, and medication for Fido and Fluffy. Winter is also a good time to make sure your pet’s tags or microchip information is up-to-date just in case they get lost.
With these tips, you and your pet can safely enjoy a winter wonderland together!