The Winter can be a risky time for animals, but with a few tips and precautions, you can winterize your pet to keep him safe and warm in the most frigid temperatures. Keeping your pet indoors may be the easiest solution, but your dog still needs his exercise, and your outdoor cat will want to keep her normal routine. Weathering Winter elements like snow, ice, and salt takes more than picking the trendiest pet parka; read on for a few simple and important safety tips for winterizing your pet.
If your pet must be kept outside:
- If your dog has an outdoor house, then make sure it's elevated and dry and preferably insulated so that drafts don't creep in. And, of course, furnish it with warm, comfortable bedding.
- Add a pet door to your garage so that he can have access to extra shelter, and provide him with a nice doggie bed in a clean, dry area. Also, make sure to keep poisonous chemicals like antifreeze and rodenticide out of his reach.
- Check periodically to make sure that your pet's water is not frozen, and use plastic bowls instead of metal ones, as your pet's tongue could freeze and stick to metal, à la Ralphie in A Christmas Story.
- This may sound crazy, but check under the hood of your car before you start the engine. Cats are known to seek shelter in car engines when temps are low. Usually banging the hood or honking the horn is enough to startle them out of their hiding places.
- Outdoor pets will require more calories in the Winter to produce body heat, so make sure to keep his food bowl more stocked than in the Summer.
For both indoor and outdoor pets:
- Dogs can easily lose their scent in the cold and get lost, so keep your pup close and under your control when walking him in the Winter. And he may be tempted to eat all that snow around him, but don't allow it. Snow could be tainted by harmful chemicals like antifreeze and contain dangerous objects, and it could upset his stomach or even cause hypothermia.
- After taking your dog for a walk or after your cat comes inside, wipe their paws off with a warm, moist cloth, because it's likely that they stepped in salt or antifreeze. This will prevent your pet from licking his paws and ingesting the chemicals. As a preemptive strike, you can rub a layer of petroleum jelly on your pet's paws before he goes outside or put some booties on his feet.
- Low temperatures can mean frostbite, so always make sure to check your pet for symptoms. Check his ears, paws, and nose for any ice clumps, which may not form immediately. And if you have to walk your dog on a particularly cold day, then when you get home, draw him a lukewarm bath to melt away any ice clumps that may have formed or are forming.
- Make sure to keep space heaters out of reach, as curious pets might approach and risk getting burned.
- In contrast to outdoor pets, indoor pets are typically less active in the Winter and therefore retain more weight. Watch your pet's food intake and motivate him to get moving with some fun indoor games or toys.
- Lastly, get him that trendy pet parka! Proper Winter apparel is integral to keeping your pooch or kitty warm, especially if you have a less-furry breed like a Chihuahua or Greyhound.