Keeping Your Pets Safe in Winter

We take a lot of steps to protect ourselves from cold weather in the winter. We have our coats, hats, and gloves, and we layer on thick when the temperature starts to drop. But what about our pets? Sure, cats and dogs have fur, but that’s not enough. Fur coats are less effective than the insulated coats we wear during the winter. If you’re cold, chances are your pet is too. So what should you do to protect your pets from the bitter chill?

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Bring Them Inside. When the temperatures start dipping below 40, it’s time to bring your pets inside. Cats actually prefer temperatures around 65 degrees or higher. Some dogs can handle cold better depending on the length of their coat, but it is not recommended to leave dogs outside in temperatures below 40, especially overnight. Another danger with cold temperatures is dehydration. If your pets water bowl has frozen over, it’s likely your pet will become dehydrated. If you have outdoor feral cats and absolutely cannot bring them inside, there are still things you can do to help make the winter more bearable. You can easily craft an outdoor cat shelter out of wood, or even a storage bin. Click here to see how.

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Provide Adequate Bedding. Provide a warm place for your pet to sleep. Beds should be at least 3 inches off of the floor so that your pet is protected from drafts. Place beds in warm areas of your home and away from drafty windows or doors. If you live in a multi-pet home, it is best that everyone has their own bed. For older pets with stiff joints, a heated bed can be a nice solution. Just be sure to use the bed safely, and keep it unplugged when you are not home. For smaller pets like hamsters and mice who like to burrow, increase their amount of bedding in the winter to keep them warm.

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Bundle Up For Walks. Those early morning and late evening walks can be cold and miserable. If your dog is a smaller breed, he may need a coat of his own. Older dogs are more susceptible to to the cold and may also need a coat. If you’re walking your dog and notice he is shivering, then he definitely needs one. Visit your local pet store and pick out the perfect coat! Just as you would for yourself, pick a coat that is made well and insulated. Be sure that the coat fits your dog well, it should not restrict his movement. Don’t get distracted by colors, go for quality over style. Remember, this coat is for your dog and he doesn’t care what color it is. He just wants to be warm!

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Protect Their Paws. Winter weather can be really hard on your pets paws. Paws are vulnerable to drying, cracking, frostbite, and even burns from road salt. If the roads have been recently salted, be very cautious of where you choose to walk your dog. Wipe off paws after every walk to reduce the risk of burns. Occasionally check their paws for evidence of cracking or burns. You can purchase balms to protect your pets paws from drying. Another option is boots for dogs to protect their feet from the cold and other dangers. Like with the coats, just be sure that the boots fit nicely and that your dog is still able to walk properly.

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Beware Antifreeze. Antifreeze (ethylene glycol) tastes sweet to pets, and can be lethal when ingested. For this reason it is very important to keep your pets away from antifreeze. Keep your pets away from cars that could be leaking antifreeze, or away from any pipes that have been treated with antifreeze. Also be very careful where you store any antifreeze and make sure the lid is always on. It is best to keep your pets away from any area where chemicals are stored or frequently left out. This is a heartbreaking issue that can easily be avoided with preventative measures.

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Love and Attention. Love and affection keep us warm during cold dreary days, and the same is true for our pets. Be sure to give them the love and attention they need, especially when they are cooped up inside. Stock up on the toys and keep your pets moving to keep them warm, happy, and healthy.

Follow these tips to keep your pets safe and warm this winter. And always contact your veterinarian if you have any questions or concerns about your pet. 

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