If you are a pet parent, it is important to remember that the harsh cold days are not just a headache for you, but also for your little companions. Whether it’s our dogs, cats, rabbits, or any other small pets, not providing enough protection from the bitter temperatures can put their lives at risk during cold snaps.
No matter what breed they may be, no amount of fur can keep an animal 100% safe during frigid temperatures. There are some special precautions to keep in mind when the cold weather descends to keep your pets safe and warm. They are, after all, a member of the house and should always be treated as such.
Instead of putting their safety off, it is best to plan ahead and be prepared, especially if you live in a part of the world that experiences extreme bouts of cold.
In this article, we will go through some of the things you can do to make sure you keep your pets safe and comfy during the winter, both indoors and outdoors.
15 Things to Keep in Mind to Keep Your Pets Warm This Winter
1. Increase Your Pet’s Exercise by Opting for Shorter, More Frequent Walks
Wintertime in many places can translate to a lot of time spent indoors and not enough time spent getting exercise outdoors.
As the winter months start coming to an end, a good practice is to gradually increase your pet’s exercise. This will allow them to be at their best to enjoy the warmer months instead of lazing around.
What is even more important, however, is to continue your pets’ daily exercise even during the colder months, if possible.
A great way to do that is to go no shorter walks that happen more frequently throughout the day.
Going on short walks would not only ensure that you and your pet get the needed bonding time and exercise, but it would also help save the animal from any health risks as they won’t be exposed to the weather for too long.
2. Keep Your Pet’s Feet Clean After a Walk
As you head back from your eventful walks, make sure your pet’s paws are protected from the elements. All the ice, salt, and chemicals on the roads and pavements can result in a buildup on your little friend’s paw.
This can lead to irritation on their pads. Moreover, if the animal licks any of this buildup, they could potentially be ingesting harmful substances.
To avoid putting your pet’s life at risk, every time you come back home from a walk in the snow, give your pet’s paws a little wash with warm water and pat dry with a cloth.
If you have a dog, make sure its nails are trimmed to avoid any further buildup that can be difficult to remove.
3. If It is Too Cold for You, it is Probably Too Cold for Your Pet Too
This is a good rule of thumb to follow during the winter months when you are simply not sure how to gauge how cold or warm your pet is.
Temperatures tend to plummet during the nighttime while you sleep. No matter how used to the cold your pet may seem, it is imperative to keep them indoors overnight otherwise they run the risk of getting hypothermia or frostbite.
If your pet exhibits symptoms of any weather-related issue, waste no time and get in touch with your vet immediately.
It is also important that you keep the temperatures indoors at a reasonable level as well.
4. Know Your Pet’s Limits to Extreme Temperatures
Understanding your pets and their limits is crucial to knowing how to keep them warm and protected.
Some breeds do perfectly fine in the colder temperatures while some need to be mostly kept indoors (with the exception of short walks).
In addition, dogs that are not too old or too young have a higher tolerance to cold and can spend more time engaging in outdoor activities.
But coming back to our previous point: if it’s too cold for you, it’s probably too cold for your pet too. Therefore, despite the fact that some animals are more tolerant towards lower temperatures, they should not be left out in the cold for longer periods.
5. Dress for the Weather
While you put on your coziest winter coat, don’t forget to dress your pets for the elements too. Investing in a nice, tiny sweater or jacket can go a long way in keeping your pet prepped for their walk. However, make sure that the fabric is not something that bothers them or irritates their skin.
6. Don’t Leave Them Outside for Long Periods
As mentioned earlier, some animal breeds have a higher tolerance to extremes of temperatures. However, that simply does not mean that they won’t be at risk when left outside for longer periods.
If you want to keep your pets protected on cold days, limit their time outside. This means avoiding long walks and frequent trips to the bathroom outside. You also should not leave them outdoors overnight or let them play in the snow unattended.
Even if they have a well-insulated outdoor kennel, it is best to keep your pets indoors.
Another thing to be cautious of is to never leave your pet inside the car in an attempt to keep them warm while you run errands. This can be turn out to be hazardous for your pet’s health and is, therefore, something you should be pretty wary of.
7. Create Warming Spaces Inside the House
Not only is it vitally important to keep your pets shielded from outdoor elements, but it is also crucial to keep them warm and comfortable while inside the house.
While inside, ensure to provide your pets with all the cozy blankets and rugs so that they are comfy. A good practice is to allot a few spots in the house for your pet to rest and warm-up.
While indoor heating is necessary, you should be careful in the method you choose to remain warm. It is best to avoid space heaters or portable heaters since your pet can bump into them and knock them over. Heated mats that can burn your animal friend’s skin should also be used wisely.
If you have a fireplace, your pets need to be kept at a safe distance from it. In this case, screens are a must so that your pets are shielded from any flying flames and sparks.
8. Provide Your Pets with Appropriate Shelter at All Times
Always keep your pets sheltered by keeping them inside with you and your family instead of leaving them outdoors during winters.
If you have a pet that loves being outside, such as dogs, taking them out for short, frequent walks is okay. However, that should be the only time they are outside.
If for some reason, your pet has to spend most of their day outside, you should protect them by providing a dry, draft-free shelter that is big enough for them to move around comfortably, but not so big that it has trouble keeping the animal warm.
The floor of the outdoor shelter should be raised a few inches from the ground, preferably with the help of straw.
In addition, outdoor-loving pets also need ample food so that their body has the energy to keep them warm, which leads us to our next point.
9. Keep Your Pets Well Fed and Hydrated
Animal – just like humans – rely on calories. These calories fuel their activities that help keep them warm.
Depending on how big your furry friend is, the amount of food they need varies. For example, dogs and cats with a lower body fat and a thin coat often require more calories and food during winter to maintain a healthy body temperature.
On the other hand, pets with a higher body fat and a thick fur or coat may require less food to keep themselves warm because they are naturally better protected from the cold.
Whatever the case may be, make sure to provide them with unfrozen and clean water and lots of food. Before making any changes to their diet, check in with your vet.
10. Pet Proof Your House
As your pet friend will likely be spending more time inside the house during winter, you may have to take some extra steps to keep them safe indoors.
Your house contains potential hazards, such as electrical wires, medicines, and cleaning supplies. These should always be kept at a place that is out of reach for the animals.
It also helps to find ways to keep them engaged inside the house rather than outside. This could be achieved by providing them with scratching posts for cats or chew toys for dogs.
11. Keep Your Pet Safe from Antifreeze
A major hazard during the cold season is antifreeze poisoning. Antifreeze can leak from your car’s radiator or spill on the ground while you spray it on your car’s windows.
It is best to overall avoid using antifreeze and instead use old-fashioned wiping scrapers. There are also ice melting options available that are pet-friendly.
If you do use antifreeze, make sure you clean up any spills quickly and keep any antifreeze containers locked away and out of reach for the animals.
Even a tiny amount can be fatal for your pets. If you think your pet has ingested anything toxic, reach out to your veterinarian doctor promptly.
12. Plan and Manage Your Outdoor Time Wisely
During the winter months, you should aim to find a balance between keeping your pets indoors and trying to acclimate them to the cold.
That means taking the proper supplies whenever you decide to go outside and managing your outdoor time wisely.
Before you and your walking buddy head out, ensure that your pet is on a leash. They should also be microchipped, particularly on snowy days. Snow can affect your pet’s sense of smell and if they get lost, it can be hard for them to find their way back home.
While you are outside, keep it short. As the days get shorter, it is best to consider how much daylight you have left before you leave the house.
13. Don’t Forget the Grooming
The low temperatures may make you want to skip on your pet’s grooming requirements. However, it is actually just as, if not more, important to keep your pet groomed during the winter.
Comb their fur coat regularly. If you wait till warmer months to approach, too many tangles can form which can then make combing a lot more hectic for you and a lot more painful for your pet.
In addition, trim the hair on your pet’s paws. This would help prevent salt and other toxic chemical buildups.
14. Protect Outdoor Animals
Whether it’s your own pets or community animals in your area, all animals need protection from the elements as well as food and water.
It is very easy to give outdoor animals a hand and keep them warm. You can build a quick shelter for both cats and dogs by utilizing a plastic tub and straw.
Apart from the temperature itself, a major hazard that can pose a risk for outdoor animals is cars. Cats and other small wildlife often snuggle up in the warm car engines by crawling up under the hood.
Make sure you don’t harm any animals by banging on the hood of your car to scare them away before you start your car.
15. Know the Warning Signs
Prevention is key when it comes to keeping your pets safe during the winters. But in spite of that, you should be aware of the warning signs that your pets may exhibit for winter-related health concerns, such as hypothermia.
Signs can include discoloration of the skin, skin blisters, and pain when you touch certain body parts.
Always consult your vet if you suspect any disease or condition.
The Bottom Line – Always Be Prepared
Winter is not all numbing wetness and bitter temperatures that lead to risk and danger. In fact, it is a great opportunity to play in the snow with your pets and explore the frosty outsides together. It only requires a bit of due diligence on your end as a pet owner.
If you are prepared beforehand, keeping your pet safe during the cold weather is going to be a breeze for you. If there is a weather forecast for extreme weather, stock up on food and prescription medication. Knowing who to call in an emergency can also be really handy.
In the end, don’t forget to care for not just your own pets, but any other animals that you may encounter to be left out in the cold. All animals deserve warmth, love, and protection!