How to Keep Your Pets Safe in the Winter by Penny Martin


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According to the American Veterinary Medicine Association (AVMA), pets’ tolerance for cold weather varies just as much as humans’. And just like us, extreme temperatures can put pets at risk for frostbite or hypothermia if you don’t take the proper precautions. Just being mindful of how you are feeling out in the cold will help you determine how to best care for your pet. And when needed, take the necessary measures to keep your pet safe and comfortable.


Never Leave Your Pets in the Car

Family Pet suggests that it is better to leave your pet at home than to take him with you only to leave him in the car unattended. Most people realize how unsafe it is to leave them in the car in the heat, but cold weather has its risks as well. Just as a car locks in heat in the summer, it also locks in cold in the winter. If you must take your pet with you, throw some warm blankets in the car for him to snuggle into and leave the window slightly cracked to prevent suffocation.


Bring Your Pets Inside

It is always safest to bring your pets inside during harsh weather, even if he needs to sleep in the garage or in the mudroom. Cats and dogs have higher resting body temps and need a blanket in their bed during colder months. But if they must stay outdoors, make sure they have a covered place to sleep that is free from drafts and moisture. It should be a place that is elevated off the cold ground and has an entry that is covered with some sort of flap or a material that will keep out the wind.


Keep Winter Chemicals Out of Pets’ Reach

Statistics show that about 10,000 dogs and cats die each year from ingesting antifreeze. The substance has a sweet taste to pets and if it is within reach, they are likely to drink it. Keep these chemicals up high or locked up out of reach of your pets and clean up any spills immediately. But antifreeze isn’t the only chemical you should be mindful of. Be aware of where you store things such as ice melt chemicals and pool chemicals as well. Never leave them out in the open for your pets to be exposed to.


Take Care of Their Skin

Just like humans, pets can experience chafing and cracking during the winter months, so it’s important to take precautions to keep them healthy. Icy sidewalks and salt can dry out the pads on your dog’s paws, causing irritation and cracking. Wipe them off well every time you return home from a walk. Also, avoid bathing too often. It strips natural oils away from the skin, making him more susceptible to dryness.


Protect Them During Winter Walks

You probably will have to take them on the occasional winter walk, but make sure they are dressed for winter as well as you are. Never shave your dog’s hair down to the skin in the winter. The added exposure to the elements not only makes them feel colder, it can also cause dry skin and rashes. Dress them appropriately in sweaters if necessary. Short-haired and elderly dogs will need the extra warmth. Booties are also a good idea to protect their paws if your pet will keep them on.


Keep in mind that your pets, though usually a little more tolerant of the elements than you, are still able to feel drops in temperature just like humans. It’s best to give them a choice by doing things like installing pet doors or paying attention when they are begging to come inside. Get to know your pet and understand his particular needs so that you can keep him safe year round.

Written by Penny Martin, author of