1. Bring Pets Inside
Many people believe that dogs and cats are protected from the harsh winter elements because of their fur coats. However, while their coats do provide a little extra warmth from the cold, they are not enough to fully protect your pets during the winter months. Pets’ should spend most of their time inside when it is cold and their time outdoors should be adjusted according to their coat thickness, health and activity level.
2. Provide Shelter Outdoors
If you are unable to bring your pets indoors then it is imperative that you provide them with a warm shelter to fully escape the wind, rain, snow and cold. The shelter needs to have enough room to be able to accommodate your pet comfortably but it should be snug enough to retain your pet’s heat. The shelter should be raised off of the ground and should be facing away from the wind to provide ultimate protection. Make sure the shelter is equipped with warm dry bedding, that should be frequently changed, and fresh, non frozen water. It is also a good idea to line the door of the shelter with a material to block some wind and rain, like a thick plastic or heavy burlap.
3. Provide Shelter Indoors
Even after you bring your dogs and cats inside, they may still be cold. Make sure you have plenty of places set up around your house that are dry and warm so your pet is able to increases his or her body temperature. Cold floors can make pets even colder so having lots of warm blankets lying in their favorite spots around the house is a good idea to battle the bitter weather. Just like people, our pets’ body temperature can fluctuate so they need to have different options of places to get comfortable depending on if they are seeking more or less heat.
4. Winter Clothing
Deciding whether or not to dress up your pet in winter clothing and accessories usually depends on individual circumstances. Cats in general are not contenders for winter clothing because they are not tolerant of it, which can cause the animal to injure itself because of stress. Also, breeds like Siberian Huskies or Alaskan Malamutes shouldn’t need any extra protection from clothing because they sport double coats of fur and are more tolerant to cold weather. Smaller breeds or breeds with short hair may benefit from a winter sweater or coat to help keep them insulated. Some pet owners consider boots to protect their dog’s feet and pads from the ice and snow. If you do go this route make sure they fit securely to avoid anyinjury but they shouldn’t be tight enough to cut off your dog’s circulation.
5. Be Prepared
Severe and dangerous weather is always a possibility during the winter months. In case of a blizzard or other force of nature that can confine you to your home for days at a time, your family, including all of your pets, must have enough food and supplies to be able to make it through the storm. Every family should have an emergency kit packed and ready at all times. The kit needs to include food, medicine and water for every person and pet to last at least five days.
6. Look out for Strays
Dogs and cats not fortunate enough to have a warm home will also be seeking shelter during the winter. You can build these animals an outside shelter or leave dry blankets, food and non frozen water outside to help them survive the elements. Also make sure you check that your car’s engine hasn’t become home to a feral cat looking to escape the cold overnight. Bang on your hood, kick your tire wells or beep your horn to make sure there are no sleeping cats seeking shelter before you turn on your car and cause a deadly accident.
7. Keep ID Information Updated
It is imperative that all of your pet’s identification information is kept up to date. Dogs and cats can easily become lost in the winter because the snow covers up scents and tracks they may follow to get back home. Also, the dark winter nights and reduced visibility make it harder for pets to make it back to their homes. Make sure your dogs and cats are collared and have pet ID tags with the correct information on it. Getting your pet microchipped may also be something to consider, but it only makes sense to do this if you will be vigilant in keeping the information on the chip updated. Finding a lost cat or dog with an out of date chip leads to a lot of dead ends when you are trying to get the animal back home.
8. Be Aware of Your Pet’s Health
Be sure to keep an eye on your pet’s health through the winter months. Conditions like arthritis can be more irritated by cold weather so it is important to supervise your pet and your pet’s health all winter long. Also, make sure you provide your pet with more water when it is cold because their body is working harder to keep them warm.
9. Know the Signs of Frostbite
Frostbite occurs when a part of your dog or cat’s body freezes. Frostbite usually occurs on a cat’s paws, ears or tail, and on dog’s tail, ears, foot pads or scrotum. Signs of frostbite include skin that is pale or blue that later turns red and puffy, skin that stays cold, or skin that has shriveled. Immediately seek care from your vet if your pet experiences any of these symptoms.
10. Know the Signs of Hypothermia
Prolonged exposure to the cold can cause your dog or cat’s body temperature to drop very quickly. Symptoms for hypothermia, which can be life-threatening and requires veterinary assistance , include violent shivering, muscle stiffness, trouble breathing, lethargy, coma and cardiac arrest.