It may just be October, but Old Man Winter is right around the corner. And when the weather becomes frightful, it can put pets at risk for a number of problems and injuries.  All pets are affected differently by the climate, and winter pet care can be more involved this time of year in spite of our traditionally mild winters.

Whether your pet loves to be out in the cold and occasional snow, or prefers to snuggle up by the fire, sold weather safety is critical for the health and well being of your pet. 

Winter Weather Pet Care Basics

Winter weather can pose some serious concerns for our furry friends. The safest place for them is definitely indoors with you. Still, most of us venture out from time to time, so here are some things to be aware of.

  • A pet’s tolerance for cold weather varies depending on age, breed, species, and overall general health, but any pet can suffer from frostbite, hypothermia, or other cold weather injuries. A pet’s fur coat is not sufficient to protect them from the elements, so always bring them indoors or provide adequate shelter when the temperature hits 32 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, no matter what. 
  • Keep pets hydrated well all winter long. All pets should have access to fresh, unfrozen water while outside. Use a non-metal bowl to prevent tongue from sticking.
  • Feral cats often take shelter in the warmth of a car engine, so always honk your horn or pound on the hood before starting your car. Antifreeze is used frequently when the temperatures cool, but is highly toxic to pets. Clean up any spills immediately and contact us right away if your pet ingests some.
  • A protective coat or sweater can help pets maintain their body temperature when they want to venture outside for a potty break or winter walk. Make sure to take it off as soon as you get indoors to prevent mats and skin irritation.
  • Snow and ice can wreak havoc on your pet’s sensitive paws. Use booties or a paw balm to protect pads from drying and cracking.
  • Salt and chemical agents used for deicing can be toxic to pets. Prevent them from ingesting dangerous chemicals by wiping and drying their feet for them when they come in. 
  • The cold is especially hard on older pets. Provide a cozy bed indoors and feed them a high quality, life stage appropriate diet to warm them from the inside out.
  • Adequate shelter is a must for outdoor pets. A dog house should be no more than 3 times the size of your dog, and be generously bedded with cedar shavings (to prevent fleas). The door should be away from the wind and can be covered with a burlap sack. Give outdoor cats access to a shed or barn in order to escape the elements. 

Winter Pet Grooming

Just because it’s winter time doesn’t mean we shouldn’t groom our pets! Regular bathing and brushing removes dead hair, dirt and dander, and can actually help keep your pet warmer by improving air circulation and better blood flow to the skin.

Paws need tender loving care in the winter, too. Keeping nails trimmed and the hair around the pads short will help reduce the snow and ice buildup that can happen when walking on those surfaces. 

The Holidays are Coming! 

It wouldn’t be winter without mention of the holiday season. Here are a few of our best winter pet care tips when it comes to celebrating the holidays. 

  • Secure holiday trees to the wall if you have a tree-climbing cat or dog.
  • Don’t use ribbon or raffia to tie gifts, as they can cause foreign body obstruction.
  • Clean up pine needles around Christmas trees promptly. 
  • Keep all ornaments, yarn, ribbon and garlands high up in the tree and out of pet’s reach. Don’t use tinsel.
  • Holly, mistletoe and poinsettia are toxic when consumed. Stick to other flowers or greenery.
  • Chocolate and anything sweetened with Xylitol is toxic to pets and should be kept out of reach.
  • When entertaining, alert guests to these and other safety guidelines to keep your pets safe.

Now that you have the do’s and don’ts for winter pet care, please give us a call if you have any questions or concerns. Long Animal Hospital and Emergency Center wishes you a safe and fun winter season!