09 Jan Winter Pet Safety
1. Keep Them Warm
Keep Pets Indoors
First off, we suggest that you keep all pets indoors. Our pets were bred for hundreds of years to distance themselves from the traits of their wild ancestors. Most of these animals weren’t bred to withstand extremely cold weather, and some were even bred to live in hot climates.
Keep Pets Sheltered
If you do have outdoor pets, provide them with dry, draft-free shelters. Make sure that the shelter is large enough that they can sit or lay down comfortably, but not so large that their own body heat escapes them. Make sure that the shelter is weather-proofed and that their entrance is facing away from winds. Provide them with extra food and water to replace the energy they’re using to stay warm, and always use plastic bowls outside because their tongues could stick to a metal bowl.
Keep Them out of Cars
We hear far too many stories of the poor animals who are left in hot cars during the summer, but we hear far less about the pets who are left in cold cars during the winter. The car isn’t an acceptable shelter for pets. Your car cannot help them to hold in their body temperature during the cold, so it is best to leave them inside your warm home during the winter months.
Know Their Limits
When you’re walking your dogs, know their limits. If you have a Siberian Husky, that dog is probably going to love the cold and likely doesn’t need a jacket to hold their body heat in. Dogs like huskies tend to be the exception and not the rule. If your dog doesn’t have a thick, double-coat, you will have to be aware of their temperature limits, and you may need to buy them a coat or sweater to keep them warm in freezing conditions.
3. Make Them Visible
Whether your pet is double- or single-coated, you may still have to put some extra accessories on your dogs during their winter walks. Darker days and reduced visibility can make it difficult for drivers to see you and your pet, so adding a neon vest, flashing collar, and other visibility pet accessories will help to keep you and your pet safe.
Avoid walking during/after sunset or before/during sunrise. Also, avoid walking during a storm. Reduced visibility and reduced traction for you and drivers create many potentially dangerous scenarios.
2. Protect Their Paws
The other consideration to keep in mind when you’re walking your dogs in the winter is how you can protect their paws. Especially during a New England winter, municipalities and homeowners lay down salt on roads, driveways, and walkways to prevent and melt ice. The salt is great for creating more traction but it can do a lot of damage to our cars and animals.
After your walks, wipe down your pets’ paws of the salt, de-icers, and antifreeze they may have stepped in. This will prevent damage to their paws, give you the chance to look for signs of damage to their paws, and keep them from licking it off and ingesting dangerous chemicals. If you want to protect their paws, you can massage petroleum jelly onto their pads after you’ve wiped them down. Additionally, you can purchase paw-safe de-icers to use in your own driveway and walkways to help reduce your pet’s exposure to these harmful chemicals.
4. Check Under the Hood
Whether you have outside pets or not, your neighbors may. In cold weather, cats will look for shelter where they can find it, and many cats will choose to hide under a car or in the wheel wells. Under your vehicles, they are protected from sleet, freezing rain, hail, and snow. Additionally, the heat coming off of your tires and engine would make it a nice place for cats looking for warmth.
Get in the habit of checking under your vehicle and banging on the hood before you even start the car. Moving engine parts could injure cats, so you want to give them a chance to escape before you start the car. We would suggest doing this all year long because it will keep you in the habit of doing so, and some cats may still hide under cars even during warmer months.
Here in Connecticut, we know that when a snowstorm is coming, everyone runs to the grocery store and empties the shelves of milk and bread. Before you checkout, make sure you have preparations for your pets as well. Have enough pet food, cat litter, or any other essentials you may need in the event of poor road conditions, power outages, or even a car that won’t start in the cold weather.