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Winter Pet Safety

Sure, the winter is a spectacular time for playing in the snow, hitting the slopes, and spreading holiday cheer. However, just like any other season, winter has its woes. The good news is, with a few precautionary steps, your forever friend can stay snug, safe, and healthy all the way to spring!

Stay Inside

If you’re cold outside, chances are your pet is too! It’s perfectly fine to go outside for daily walks and playtime; in fact, it’s highly encouraged! However, the safest place for dogs and cats during the cold winter months is with you and your family in the warmth of your own home.

If your pet spends a lot of time outside, consider their health and comfort by taking extra safety steps.

Providing dry, protective shelter is a must to protect from harsh winter winds and freezing temperatures. Opt for a shelter that is big enough for your pet to comfortably sit and lay down, but also small enough to retain body heat. Also, elevate the shelter a few inches above ground.

Providing extra food and water is important for pets who spend much of their time outside. After all, staying warm requires energy! Make sure your pet always has fresh and unfrozen water in a plastic bowl.

Keep the Fur

A layer of fur doesn’t make pets immune to the cold weather. Exposed skin and paw pads are the first to feel the effects of winter. No matter if the temperature is above or below freezing, wind chill is especially dangerous and puts pets, and people, at risk for frostbite and hypothermia.

Certain breeds with thick coats and long hair such as huskies are more tolerant of the cold. Even so, pet owners should not leave their furry friends outside in the cold for long periods of time! If you have a short-haired pet, consider purchasing a sweater for extra warmth and protection.

Bathe your pets less frequently during colder months. This will prevent dry, irritated skin.

Be Cognizant of Chemicals

Anti-freeze is poisonous to dogs and cats. In fact, certain antifreezes have a sweet and inviting scent! There are products on the market that now have a bittering agent as to not tempt pets. It’s still important to always practice precaution by keeping chemicals secure and out of reach. If you believe your pet has been exposed, do not wait to seek urgent veterinary care.

Salt on sidewalks can severely injure your pet’s paw pads. Before you take your pet outside, massaging petroleum jelly on their paw pads can make a huge difference. There are also cute, protective booties you can purchase! When you come inside, gently clean your pet’s paws with a damp cloth to prevent irritation. This will also keep your pet from licking their paws and getting chemicals in their mouth. Did you know there are pet-safe salts?

Give Outdoor Neighborhood Cats a Hand

Feral and stray cats are exposed to the elements 24/7. It’s simple to help outdoor neighborhood cats by providing food, water, and shelter. You can easily make a shelter for outdoor cats at home using Styrofoam or plastic bins, and straw for insulation. We recommend making a small door to prevent larger animals and predators from entering the shelter. Also, be sure to keep the shelter raised off the ground so the kitties stay warm.

Outdoor cats and wildlife also tend to seek shelter under vehicle hoods. Be mindful of this and knock on the hood of your car before starting the engine.

Dr. Laura Gay Senk has run a TNR program at Farmingdale Dog & Cat Clinic for years! If you bring a cat in, please make sure they have shelter when they are returned to your neighborhood. This is especially important because the fur on their bellies will be shaved for the procedure.

Speak Up!

It’s dangerous to leave a pet outside in the cold for extended periods of time. This puts a pet at risk for freezing, injury, and even death. If you see an animal left in the cold for too long, politely say something or document what you see with as much detail as possible. Photographs are a huge help.

Like summer months, it is not safe for pets to be left in a car. It doesn’t take long for temperatures in a car to drop drastically, putting a pet at risk of freezing to death.