When the weather turns frosty and we ourselves begin to bundle up, it is important to take pause and consider the needs of our furry companions. While some breeds of our beloved pets may thrive in the cold weather, many others are not well adapted for cold temperatures.
There are, however, many steps you can take to ensure your pets stay warm and safe even on the coldest of winter days. If you have outdoor pets, consider bringing them inside, especially on days where the temperatures dip below freezing for more than a few hours at a time. If brining your pet inside is not an option, ensure they have a warm, dry place bed down that provides shelter from the wind and snow and access to a water source that will not freeze.
Keeping warm burns calories so increasing their food may be necessary as well to ensure they have the energy they need to sustain themselves. Providing these essential basics can be the difference between life and death when the temperatures plummet – in some cities there are even laws in place to protect pets that are left tethered without these items for more than 30 minutes.
Our indoor pets need a little extra attention in the winter as well, especially those that need to go outside at least a couple of times a day for exercise and to relieve themselves. Even though our pets are covered in fur, they are susceptible to frostbite just as we are, especially on their tails, ears, and paws. Salt and ice can also be painful to walk on and can cut the pads of their feet. If you notice your pet is holding his feet up when outside or winces when walking on the cold ground or after stepping on patch of salt consider purchasing a pair of pet boots that you can slip on their feet before venturing outside.
If your pet does not wear boots, you may want to wipe off their paws after returning inside to get the salt off of their feet which can also become a skin irritant. If you have a short haired pet, a toy breed, or a pet that is older or suffering from health problems, you may also need to invest in a coat for them to wear when out and about in the winter.
Basic training for your pets can be especially helpful in the winter as well, for both their safety and your own. Make sure your pets do not tug on the leash while they are out for a walk, which could cause you to slip on an icy surface. If you prefer off leash walking, ensure your pets know terms such as “leave it” or recall on command so they do not put themselves in dangerous situations, such as walking out on a partially frozen pond or drinking from puddles on the side of the road that may contain antifreeze.
If there are outdoor cats in the neighborhood it is also a good habit to give them a warning before starting your car by knocking on the hood a couple of times. Many cats will curl up under the hood on the warm engine block to escape the cold and can be seriously injured when the car is started.
Taking these simple steps will help make the winter a little bit warmer, safer, and a lot more enjoyable for you and your furry companions.