Keep Pets Safe & Happy in Colder Weather

A man and woman checking to make sure their pet is safe in the colder climate.

As fall winds down and winter approaches, it is important to do what you can to keep your pets safe. The cold months pose many risks and challenges, but we’ve rounded up everything you need to know for keeping your furry and feathered loved ones safe this winter!

Check Wheel Wells & Engine Compartments

In the winter, cats and small animals may sleep in wheel wells and automobile engines to keep warm. If you start your car and an animal is resting on your tire or under the hood, it could be badly injured or even killed by the moving components. Before you start your automobile, you can pound loudly on the hood or honk the horn to alert the sleeping animal. This will rouse the animal and give it a chance to flee before you begin driving.

Bump Up Calories

Dogs, in particular, will use more energy than humans when they are out exercising in the cold. You can assist them by feeding them a little more food so they can make up for the energy and calories they expended playing.

Double check your feeding locations as well. If you keep your pet’s bowls outside, consider moving them indoors to avoid frozen food and water. If the food and water must remain outside, make sure the material of the bowl can withstand harsh weather.

Going Outside? Clean Up Afterward

Your animal’s paws might pick up hazardous substances such as salt, antifreeze, or deicers while on winter strolls. To keep your pets from licking it off and getting sick when you return home from walks, clean off their paws.  The Humane Society cites this as one of the main ways to protect your pet in winter.

Pets can become chilly and drenched after a snow play session, which can lead to a cold or hypothermia if they are chilled for an extended period. To prevent this, make sure to dry your pets as soon as they come indoors. We recommend that you keep a designated pet towel on hand so you never forget this critical step.

Be Mindful of Rock Salt Danger

Rock salt poisoning is a real risk for pets. In addition to wiping off their feet after visits outdoors, monitor to make sure your pet is not eating the salt while they are outdoors. ´╗┐Pets are susceptible to salt poisoning throughout the winter when rock salt is frequently used to clear roads and pathways. If they ingest it while on a walk or by licking it off their paws, it might be fatal.

The greatest way to avoid salt poisoning is to keep a close eye on your pet and if you detect that they’ve eaten salt, clean their mouth out with water and contact a local veterinarian immediately. If you’re not sure whether your pet has ingested salt, watch for signs like vomiting, diarrhea, tiredness, lack of appetite, increased thirst and/or urination, lack of coordination, tremors, and seizures.

If you live in an area that uses salt for road maintenance, try massaging petroleum jelly or other paw protectants into paws before going outside. Paw balms make this easy! If your pet will tolerate it, booties further increase protection by preventing sand, gravel, and salt from gathering between toes and causing discomfort.

Keep Furry Friends Close

Pets are more likely to go missing in the winter than any other season, owing to falling snow that may hide recognizable odors that would normally assist them to find their way back home. Pets can also get spooked during winter storms and thus, they need a little extra attention to ensure safety.  

Keep your pets on leashes when walking so they don’t get lost, and, just in case you become separated, double-check that their tags include up-to-date contact information. Keep collars on- microchipping should only be used as a backup.

Keep Them Out of the Cold

When it gets chilly, you should never leave a pet outside for lengthy periods of time, according to the Humane Society. You cannot leave your pet outside in below-freezing temps for longer than thirty minutes without seriously risking their safety, or risk of neglect charges.

If you have outdoor pets, they should be able to get into a warm place whenever they need it. Make sure they have access to a dry, insulated shelter that they can move about in and maintain their body heat.

Dress Your Pets

Dressing your pets is not just for fun, it serves a functional purpose – keeping them warm and safe. Pets’ extremities, like our own, are highly susceptible to wind chill- even if the temperature is above freezing. They can get hypothermia and frostbite on their exposed paws, noses, and ears.

Putting them in fleece vests and jackets, waterproof paw booties, and hats can help. Like we previously mentioned, their paw pads will be protected from the de-icing salt on roads and walkways.

Adjust Walk & Play Time

It may be tempting to allow your pet to play in the snow and cold weather for hours on end but, like us, they have cold weather restrictions. If it is below freezing, you should keep play time to less than 30 minutes, especially if you have an older pet or one with any sort of disability.

“Baby” Proof Your Home

Just like babies, pets need a little guidance for home safety. Because your pets should spend more time inside during the winter, it’s essential to protect all the heating equipment that they might come across.

If you have installed a portable heater in your living room, make sure there’s a barrier around it to keep your pet from knocking into it or causing a fire. You may also want to surround radiators with a barrier if they can get extremely hot.

Go For a Checkup

As a precaution, seek veterinary attention before the winter season begins.  This gives your vet a chance to assess whether your pets have any new problems that will make the winter months more difficult.

Chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and kidney disease can all reduce a pet’s cold-temperature tolerance. Furthermore, as with any other condition, new or worsening arthritis might cause stiffer joints during the winter.

Do Not Leave Pets in Cars, Even in Winter

Much like how a car parked in the hot sun may heat up quickly and become an oven for anything inside it, a cold car transitions into a refrigerator or freezer in little time. In general, it is recommended that you do not take your pets on errands if you know you will be leaving them in a car for more than five minutes, especially if it is chilly outside.

Simplify Grooming

In the winter, remember that a longer coat will trap more heat. If your pet has long hair, simply trim it to prevent the sticking ice balls, salt crystals, and de-icing chemicals from drying out the skin. Do not forget about the hair between the toes! If you have a short-haired pet, consider investing in a coat or sweater with a high collar or turtleneck to keep the base of the tail and belly protected. For many pets, this is standard winter attire and the opportunity to make a fashion statement.

How to Help

Last but not least, if you notice a pet in need of assistance, contact your local animal welfare system. Animal neglect is a chargeable offense in all US states and many Canadian provinces, either as a misdemeanor or felony. The best thing you can do for those that cannot speak up for themselves is to advocate for them!

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