Dogs and cats may be furry, but that doesn’t mean they can face winter alone. Frostbite and hypothermia are just as much as concern for animals as for you and I.
Here are five steps that will help to keep pets safe in freezing temperatures.
1. Don’t Leave Your Pet Outside During Extreme Cold
This one seems like common sense, but it’s easy to become busy and forget just how fast the temperature drops this time of year. Aside from bathroom breaks, dogs should not spend an extended period away from the warmth of your home in freezing temperatures. Cats who ordinarily spend much of the time outdoors will have to live the life of a house-cat until the weather warms.
If you must walk your dog, keep it short and never let them off-leash. It is all too easy for a dog to run off and get lost when the visibility is poor. Frostbite can harm ears and paws quite easily, and both young and elderly animals are at particular risk of death from prolonged exposure to cold.
If you bathe your pet, make sure they are completely dry before venturing outside.
2. Don’t Rely on Dog Houses to Provide Protection
A dog house will not keep your pet sufficiently warm. While it might provide a moderate degree of protection from harsh winds, these flimsy structures do not shield the animal from extremes in temperature. Even if your pet customarily sleeps outdoors, let them stay inside this time of year.
3. Use Sweaters and Coats
Even if you are only letting your dog out to relieve itself, take the time to dress them in a coat or sweater. While this is particularly important with short-haired breeds, it really should apply to all dogs for safety’s sake (ease off on the clipping until springtime). Bring a towel along to dry off any other spots on the animal that get wet.
4. Use Paw Protection
Your pet’s paws need protection. Not only is the cold bad for them, but the salt we use to melt ice can also burn their paws.
You can buy small, pull-on booties to protect your dog’s paws from salt and help keep them warm. If booties are not available, use petroleum jelly instead. Trim any excess fur around the dog’s foot to prevent ice sticking in between their pads.
Once inside, wash the dog’s paws with water and check the pads and between toes for inflamed or cracked areas. If you find salt anywhere else, clean those spots as well.
5. Don’t Leave Pets in the Car
We all know the dangers of leaving dogs and cats inside cars during the height of summer, but the same holds true this time of year. An unattended vehicle will trap the cold inside and become the equivalent of an icebox in no time. Limit winter car rides as much as you can, and if you must take your pets along for a ride, never leave them alone in the vehicle
Image: Jaromír Chalabala