Tips for cold weather pet care

December 8, 2010

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

Your article has been sent.

Text size +

The following information is from Zootoo Pet News Staff via Gadzoo and the MSPCA:

As you prepare to head into the cold weather with your pets, keep these tips in mind so that your furry friend stays safe while having fun outside. Taking a few moments to protect your pet against winter weather will ensure his health and comfort, so stay safe before hitting the frosty outdoors.

Fur only goes so far. If you're feeling cold enough that you think it's time to go inside, chances are your pet feels the same way. Even if your animal has a coat or winter gear, make sure not to expose him to the elements for too long. While outside, if you notice your pet becoming less active or looking for a place to burrow or hide, he may be telling you he wants to head indoors.

Don't rub it in—the salt, that is. Well-meaning neighbors and shopkeepers treat sidewalks against the elements to avoid slips, but the salt can cause cracked skin and even bleeding on animal paws. After your pets come in from the cold, wipe their paw pads with warm water and dry the paws completely to avoid any rawness. Checking your pet's whiskers for any dampness can also help to avoid discomfort.

Also, if your pet has been walking or playing in deeper snow, be sure to clean and dry his belly. This practice will also prevent the accidental ingestion of any antifreeze or de-icing chemicals that your pet may have on his fur.

Comfort food. When your pet is outdoors, staying warm consumes more energy than his usual activity. Keep your pet well fed with high-protein foods to help him enjoy the weather. And of course, make sure that water bowls are not only full, but also unfrozen—so that pets don't seek alternate, potentially unsafe sources of water outdoors.

Tagging tips. Microchipping or tagging your pet is always important, especially in the wintertime, when more dogs are lost than at other times of year. Because animals can lose their scent in the snow and ice and become lost more easily, make sure that your pet's ID is up-to-date for the season.

Indoors doesn't always mean safe. Even indoors, dogs and cats will seek out just about any source of warmth, so take the time to “pet-proof” your home in cold weather by making sure that space heaters, fireplaces, and even car engines are secured against animals looking for a cozy place to nap. Also, bird owners should make sure that cages are a comfortable distance from any drafty spots.

More than walls. Outdoor shelters for pets should be dry, secure from wind and large enough for them to stand up, turn around, and lie down. The shelter floor should also be elevated from ground level and have dry bedding. A steady water supply should be provided in plastic bowls and checked on so that it does not freeze.

Rap the hood. Keep your pets warm and indoors. As always cats should stay inside. Since cats left outdoors may stay warm in car wheel wells or under hoods, you should awake any sleeping animals by rapping on your car hood before starting the engine.

Take shorter walks. Trips outside should remain short during the winter months. While dogs need outdoor exercise, lengthy walks can prove harmful especially when wind chill is a factor.

Dress for the weather. Shorthaired dogs such as Greyhounds, Beagles, Chihuahuas, and clipped breeds should be dressed in protective clothing.

Growing Appetites: Pets that spend a greater amount of time outdoors also require more food.