Summer took its sweet time saying good-bye this year, and it was questionable whether winter was ever going to make an appearance. There’s not much better than enjoying days outside with our pets no matter the conditions. Still, when the weather outside is frightful, it’s important to recognize that chilly temperatures pose health and safety risks to our furry companions despite them having fur coats. Let’s see how we can protect our pets when Jack Frost is nipping at their noses.
Home sweet home
- Keep pets away from heat sources, such as space heaters, fireplaces and wood stoves. Just like us, some pets like to be close to the warmth, but always be mindful of your pet’s location and never leave them unattended. Even if a fireplace has a screen or doors or a space heater is cordoned off, pets are curious and can get burned if they touch a hot surface.
- Make sure all pets have a warm place to sleep in the house, off the floor and away from drafts. Older pets and kittens will appreciate a heated pad or bed, which are both available at pet supply stores. Who doesn’t love a snug environment when the temperature dips?
- While dry, itchy and flaky skin isn’t exclusive to winter, home heating systems combined with the air outside certainly don’t help the condition. If your pet is uncomfortable and scratching, talk to your veterinarian about ways to add more moisture to their skin by using a topical moisturizer or changing their diet. Don’t forget to brush your pet, which helps stimulate their oil-producing glands. Plus, keeping your pet’s coat well-groomed prevents matted fur, which doesn’t protect them from the cold.
- When frigid temperatures arrive, it’s easy to start comfort eating. We’ve all done it. No judging. Pets don’t need an extra layer of fat to stay warm, but you do want to ensure they have a healthy coat and the right energy level for the winter months. In fact, pets may need fewer calories if they’re a bit more sedentary or not exercising as much. Be attentive to your pet’s activities and speak to your veterinarian before making any dietary changes.
Walking in a winter wonderland
- Don’t leave dogs outside for any length of time without supervision. Warm sweaters or doggy coats can keep them comfortable on walks. Remember that long-haired, larger dogs and those with double coats (like the Nordic breeds) may enjoy the cold and snow, but they, too, should live primarily indoors with the family.
- Dogs that spend time outdoors need plenty of fresh water available. They can’t burn calories without water, and if they can’t burn calories, they can’t keep warm. Also, use a tip-resistant, ceramic or hard plastic water bowl rather than a metal one; when the temperature is low, a dog’s tongue can stick and freeze to metal.
- After a walk, rinse or wipe your pet’s paws, legs and stomach area to prevent ingestion of salt or dangerous chemicals. For your walkways, use a pet-friendly ice-melt product. If your companion has furry feet, be sure to trim the hair that grows between the pads to prevent ice buildup. For those pups who are like the abominable snowman and the weather doesn’t slow them down, consider using socks/booties to protect their paws.
- Never let dogs off leash on snow or ice, especially during a snowstorm. Make sure they’re always wearing current ID tags and have a microchip.
- Keep snow from piling up high next to fences. A packed snowdrift can provide a boost for dogs to escape the confines of your yard. Along that line, snow and ice can slide off roofs, so be sure to keep dogs away from overhangs to prevent injuries.
Cold as ice
- Never leave any pet alone in a car during cold weather. A car can act as a refrigerator, holding in the cold and causing the animal to become hypothermic. And, leaving a car running isn’t a solution because carbon monoxide poisoning is a risk.
- Check your garage and driveway for antifreeze and other chemicals. Antifreeze is a deadly poison, but it has a sweet taste that attracts animals. Wipe up any spills right away. Better yet, use pet-safe antifreeze, which is made with propylene glycol. If ingested in small amounts, it will not hurt pets, wildlife or your family.
- If there are outdoor cats in your area, bang loudly on your car hood or honk the horn before starting the engine. In their search to stay warm, outdoor cats often take refuge next to a warm car engine or tire.
Don’t get the cold-weather blues! Always be aware of your pets, their surroundings and the weather before the blustery fun begins. For more cold weather tips, visit ddfl.org/resource/cold-weather-tips.
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