Animals are highly adaptable, but that doesn’t mean Chihuahuas can handle sub-zero temperatures or that huskies thrive in the desert. Each pet acclimates to environmental changes in different ways, but sometimes, they need our help to survive seasonal extremes. Without a proactive approach to winter pet safety, the animals we love may face deadly hazards.
Mild to Wild
Pets adapt to seasonal shifts in temperature and humidity via their coats, which thicken during the fall. Although a great defense against the cold, wet, and windy weather, thicker coats do not replace the vital need for shelter.
Exposed animals are at risk for hypothermia and frostbite. Because they react to cold through shivering and depressed breathing, indoor-outdoor pets must have access to weatherproof shelter, unfrozen water, and food to help replace spent calories.
Older and Younger
Pets in good physical health face better odds when it comes to winter pet safety. Puppies or kittens, as well as senior pets, are known to lose body heat more quickly because they have less insulating body fat and muscle mass and a weak shivering response. To compensate, many pet owners add more high-value nutrition during the winter months.
However, your best bet for protection is to simply keep these pets inside and comfortable. Keep them away from cold drafts, wet conditions, and make sure they’re warm at all times. Exposure to bitter cold can decrease a pet’s disease resistance, resulting in new or worsening cases of pneumonia or osteoarthritis.
Speaking of Their Coats…
While their coats are at peak thickness, don’t forget to brush them out. A clean, mat-free, fluffy coat offers superior protection from the elements. Plus, distributing the skin’s natural oils throughout the body can help ward off dry, itchy skin. Insulating sweaters, vests, and jackets are game changers when it comes to keeping up with daily outdoor exercise.
Other Elements of Winter Pet Safety
Depending on your pet’s species, breed, age, and lifestyle, the following winter pet safety tips may come in handy:
- Shovel out a specific spot for your dog to go to the bathroom during severe weather.
- Be aware of antifreeze risks. Clean up any leaks or spills immediately, and do not allow your pet to drink from puddles.
- Cleaning up your pet’s feet after being outside reduces the effects of salt, chemical deicers, ice, and snow pack. Be sure to trim the hairs between the paw pads to minimize ice balls. A pair of booties can make all the difference.
- Keep your dog on leash. Their sense of smell is impaired by snow, and they can get lost more easily. Microchip your pet and update your contact information if necessary.
- Do not leave your cat or dog inside your car during the winter.
- Bang on the hood of your car before turning the key. Cats are known to crawl up next to the engine block to stay warm.
- Portable heaters and fireplaces can present fire hazards. Supervision is always required.