Warm coat? Check. Scarf? Check. Fuzzy hat? Check. Cozy gloves? Check. You may be ready to venture outside in the cold weather, but what about your pet? Winter can pose a variety of dangers for pets, so keep your furry friends safe and warm this winter with these six tips from our Twin Maples Veterinary Hospital team.
#1: Consider a cozy coat for your pet
Dogs with a thin fur coat, or those who are young, old, or tiny, may appreciate a coat that provides an extra layer of warmth on frigid days. Ensure the coat fits your dog properly and doesn’t interfere with their movement, and always supervise them, because coats can present entanglement or strangulation hazards. If the coat becomes wet during outdoor activities, promptly go inside, or change your pet into a dry coat to prevent them from becoming chilled. Coats are not recommended for cats, who do not tolerate coats well, and who usually cannot be supervised outside.
#2: Care for your outdoor cats in the cold
Ideally, cats are brought inside during cold weather, but sometimes this is not possible because the cat is feral, a neighborhood stray, or won’t tolerate indoor confinement. To keep outdoor cats as warm and comfortable as possible, provide water, food, and shelter. Water may freeze, and should be changed frequently, or kept in a heated bowl. Increase the cat’s food amount in the winter, because they will burn a significant amount of calories trying to stay warm. You can create an inexpensive cat shelter using a storage tote or styrofoam box, as explained here, or you can use a store-bought cat house. The shelter should be raised off the ground, angled away from the wind, and filled with an insulating material, such as straw, that the cat can burrow into. Blankets and newspapers also provide insulation, but they are more likely to retain moisture, and do not allow burrowing. Check the shelter regularly to ensure the bedding is not soiled or wet.
#3: Don’t let pets stay in the car
You know not to leave your pet in a hot vehicle, but cars can be equally dangerous in cold weather. Leaving any pet, but especially old, young, or thin-haired pets, in the toasty house while you run errands is best, because cars tend to cool down quickly and trap the cold air like a refrigerator, potentially leading to life-threatening hypothermia. Also, watch out for heat-seeking outdoor cats, who may crawl under the hood of your parked car. Honk the horn, or bang on the hood before starting your car, or you may severely, or fatally, injure a sleeping cat.
#4: Pet-proof your house and garage
Be careful with space heaters or a fireplace, which can seriously burn a curious or rambunctious pet who brushes against the heater, or knocks it over and starts a fire. The hot glass in front of the fireplace is similarly risky. Also, pay attention when you set down your steaming mug of hot cocoa, coffee, or tea, ensuring that you choose a spot where your pet cannot be burned if they spill or sip the hot liquid. Your garage may also contain hazards such as antifreeze, which can be fatal if ingested, and ice-melting chemicals, which can irritate your pet’s sensitive skin, or cause gastrointestinal upset if they lick their feet.
#5: Provide an indoor potty for your dog
For small, arthritic, or cold-sensitive dogs who refuse to go outside to the frozen tundra, consider using disposable or washable absorbent pee pads that come in a range of sizes to suit most dogs’ indoor bathroom needs. Some dogs may prefer an indoor artificial turf potty patch, while others can be trained to use a cat litterbox. To keep your pet from turning your rug into their personal port-a-potty, teach them to use an indoor potty before the weather turns cold.
#6: Ensure your pet is healthy, and wears identification
Schedule a winter wellness exam for your pet to screen for any health conditions that may require special attention in cold weather, such as arthritis, which may worsen, and cause your furry friend to slip and fall in icy conditions. Metabolic diseases, such as thyroid problems, diabetes mellitus, Cushing’s, or Addison’s, may make temperature regulation harder for your pet in cold weather, so pay careful attention to the length of time they stay outside. Pets may also wander off, or become disorientated in the snow, so ensure your pet is microchipped, and/or their collar has identification, so they can be returned home safely and quickly should they become lost. Always keep your contact information up-to-date.
We want you and your pet to stay warm and safe this winter. If you have any questions, or your pet gets themself into cold-weather trouble, give us a call.