The nose-numbing cold weather can not only be a bother to you but to your pet too.
We’ve blogged about how to keep your pet cool in the summer, so now it’s time to explain how to keep your Fido or Fifi safe during the winter season.
Always shelter your pet
If the weather outside is too cold for you, know that it’s just as cold for your companion. If you leave your pet outdoors, they may freeze to death. Under no circumstances should a pet be left outside during any extremes of temperature. Ideally, no dog or cat should exclusively live outside, but especially when living in areas that experience either scorchingly high or freezing cold weather. In cold weather, pets need to be brought indoors where they have access to adequate heating sources.
Similarly, you should never leave your pet in the car alone during cold weather as the vehicle acts as a refrigerator, trapping in cold air.
If your pet spends some of the time outside in a shelter, ensure it’s dry and waterproofed using heavy plastic to protect your pet from the cold outside. The draft-free shelter should also be raised and covered with straw or shavings.
2. Go for shorter walks
In colder climates, it is best to enjoy shorter bursts of time outdoors with your pet. You should also avoid walking your pet on ice, as they can end up with significant injuries if the ice breaks. You can also dress them in a sweater or a winter coat during walks to protect them from the cold or icy winds.
Even a pet with long hair will appreciate the warmth of a dry sweater, especially when outside. You should also ensure you shelter them inside immediately after the walk and towel dry their skin to protect it from becoming flaky and itchy.
3. Bath your pet less often
When you bath your pet too often during the cold spells, it removes essential oils from their skin. It also increases the risk of your pet suffering from dry skin.
If you must wash your pet, ensure you wash them under the right conditions. For instance, if you wash your dog outside using a hose in warm weather, you might have to wash them indoors during winter. Your pet, just like you, can suffer from hypothermia, so you must wash them with warm water.
Other tips to consider when washing your pet during winter include:
- Ensure your home temperature is warm before and after your pet’s bath
- Use warm towels to absorb any excess water from your pet’s fur
- Keep your pet indoors after a bath until they are completely dry
- Use a moisturising shampoo or a vet-recommended rinse for your pet
4. Take care of your pet’s paws
Ensure you wipe your companion’s paws after a walk and also check for any signs of injuries or cracks. Salt and chemicals used on pavements and roads to melt snow during cold weather can irritate your pet’s paws, which is why you should always wipe them with a warm damp cloth after being outdoors.
Before going for walks, you can also massage some petroleum jelly on your pet’s paws to protect them from the cold and harmful chemicals. If your pet doesn’t have a problem wearing booties, let them wear them for added warmth and protection.
5. Add some extra bedding
During winter, add some extra bedding to both your pet’s indoor and outdoor bed. Extra blankets or straws will keep your pet warm and comfortable. Always check your pet’s bedding to ensure they aren’t wet. Wet bedding during cold weather can be fatal to your pet.
You can also buy a safe heater or a heat lamp and keep it near your pet’s bed. A heating pad will also ensure that your pet is warm even when there is no insulation in your pet’s sleeping area. Again, it’s important to stress that no dog or cat should be left outside full-time, especially in cold winter weather. Without access to proper sources of heat, it can be hard for them to generate sufficient body heat to stay healthy and comfortable. Being left out in the cold for long periods of time can also leave them feeling depressed and neglected.
6. Give them plenty of food
Pets need lots of food during winter since keeping warm depletes their energy. Keep on checking your companion’s food bowl, and if you notice that they are eating more than usual, don’t hesitate to add them some more food. Besides, your pet gets some warmth when food is being digested.
You should also check your companion’s water bowl and ensure their outside water isn’t too cold or frozen. There are affordable warmers in the market that you can buy to keep your pet’s water warm.
Always use plastic water and food bowls as your pet’s tongue can stick and freeze on a metal bowl during freezing weather.
7. Take care of short-coated and short-nosed pets
Pets with long-haired coats such as Persian cats and husky dogs can withstand cold weather. However, some pets, such as those with short noses and hair, need extra protection to stay warm.
Pets with shorter coats may need more warmth during winter. Their exposed skin may be at risk of hypothermia or frostbite during the cold weather. Check their ears, nose, and paws during chilly temperatures and if you notice any frostbite, seek immediate medical attention from your vet. You can also get them a sweater or a coat with a turtleneck and one that covers their entire body to keep them warm.
Short-nosed pets may face breathing difficulties during cold weather. Always be on the lookout for them, especially when they are outdoors.
Never shave your short or long-haired pet to their skin during the winter season. If you’re concerned about the salt crystals forming on your long-haired pet fur, trim their hair to minimise the clinging of the crystals or ice balls on their skin.
8. Cold weather can make your pet’s arthritis worse
Cold weather often worsens a pet’s arthritis. Some of the reasons for this may be increased sensitivity and decreased exercise levels. If your dog has arthritis, you can help soothe their pain and stiffness when it gets worse in winter using the below tips.
- Exercise your dog a little more during winter as joint pain and stiffness get worse when your dog adds a few extra pounds during the cold weather
- Apply heat and cold on your pet’s joints to reduce pain and stiffness
- Keep your pet warm by the use of jackets and sweaters when both indoors and outdoors
- Add some extra blankets in your dog’s bed for extra warmth and ensure they have a comfortable place to rest
9. Don’t allow your pet to roam outside when it’s cold
Many pets get lost during cold weather. Cats and dogs should never be allowed to roam on their own during cold weather. Cats often crawl under a car for shelter and warmth during winter weather. Always check beneath your car or open its hood to ensure there are no injuries to cats or other animals who may be sleeping there.
Similarly, you shouldn’t let your dog off their leash on ice. Dogs often lose their scent during snowstorms and get lost. Always ensure your pet is wearing an ID tag with correct contact details just in case they roam and get lost in snowy weather.
10. Be careful of antifreeze
Antifreeze often attracts pets due to its sweet taste.
Antifreeze is deadly when consumed by your dog or cat. It causes kidney failure in less than 24 hours after consumption. Always be on the lookout for any spilled antifreeze, especially in parking lots or radiator drainage spots in your garage. Clean any antifreeze spills and keep antifreeze bottles away from your pet.
When buying antifreeze for your home, buy one that contains propylene glycol and not ethylene glycol, as the former is less poisonous when ingested by your pet.
11. Be prepared for the cold
Have an emergency plan in place long before winter starts. Ensure your pet is part of this plan even as you plan for your family emergencies.
For instance, stock enough food and any medication that you may need in case of an emergency. Have the number of your vet on standby and make plans on how you can travel to your vet’s clinic in case of any emergency.
In conclusion, your pet needs to keep warm during winter, and deserves to have access to a warm, comfortable bed indoors and away from the harsh winter elements. If you must leave them outside for small periods of time in moderately cold weather only, ensure that they have access to a well-insulated, dry shelter with warm bedding, and never leave them outside overnight. Hopefully, now you know what to do to ensure the cold season doesn’t end up being hazardous for your companion.