Winter safety tips for pets

If you live in a region that’s expecting cold weather, you’ve probably already battened down the hatches for winter. You’ve fluffed up the down comforter, mounted snow tires or resurrected the thermal underwear from the bottom of your drawer. But what about your dog or cat? How can you help promote pet safety for them this winter?

Here is a passel of winter safety tips for pets that will keep you and your furry friends safe and cozy all winter long.

Protect the Paws

If your pet walks on streets or sidewalks, be aware that salts, deicers and ice can damage the paw pads and irritate the sensitive skin between the toes. Pets that lick their paws after being outdoors run the risk of ingesting toxic chemicals that can cause vomiting and seizures.

Be sure to trim the hair between the paw pads to prevent clumps of snow and ice from collecting there. Also, consider pet boots (if your dog or cat will tolerate them) and be sure to wash and towel-dry paws when pets come inside. There are also “pet safe” ice melts that you can use on your own driveway and sidewalk.

Bundle Up

Northern dog breeds like Malamutes and Huskies have thick, double coats that help provide insulation from the cold. But breeds with short, thin hair or hairless breeds may shiver at the thought of going outside. For these dogs, as well as extremely young, elderly or small dogs that have trouble regulating their heat, consider winter clothes for pets.

Just make sure the clothing offers warmth and comfort without limiting movement or potty duties. Clothing that sports reflective material can also help your pet be more visible on those evening walks.

Stay Off the Ice

While there’s something fascinating about walking on a frozen lake or river, there’s nothing safe about it. Variations in temperature can lead to cracks and thinning ice where pets could fall through. That’s why it’s best to keep pets on leashes and off the ice.

Bring Them Inside

Few dogs or cats can survive outdoors full time when the temperatures dip below freezing. When it’s cold, the body compensates by pulling the circulation away from the extremities to help keep the core temperature warm. That leaves the ear tips, paws and tail vulnerable to frostbite. If the core body temperature drops below normal, the animal becomes hypothermic, a life-threatening condition that can affect multiple internal organs.

To help protect your pet, limit their time outdoors. Or at the very least, provide a well-insulated outdoor house with dry bedding that’s out of the wind. If possible, provide a heating source that can’t be chewed and won’t burn the pet’s skin or pose a fire risk.

Protect Them from Flames

Winter is the perfect time to snuggle up in the glow of a warm fireplace or to share take-out lo mein by candlelight. But flying embers can burn pet fur and skin, and curious dogs and cats can singe whiskers on flames. Make sure your fireplace is covered by a glass screen and don’t leave pets unsupervised in rooms with burning candles.

Keep Up the Exercise

Just like their human counterparts, dogs and cats can put on an extra layer of fat from spending a more sedentary season indoors. But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can still take the furry kids out for short walks, play games of fetch in the house and provide food puzzles to make them work and move for their food.

Winter safety tips for pets

Here’s wishing a warm, healthy and safe winter to you and your furry family.

The information in this blog has been developed with our veterinarian and is designed to help educate pet parents. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health or nutrition, please talk with your veterinarian.