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Cold weather safety tips for your pets

December 16, 2015
Winter conditions may aggravate existing medical problems and make it harder for your dog to stay warm.

From fresh snow to twinkling icicles, winter weather can be beautiful. However, winter can also be an unpleasant time to be outside. If bitter winds and chilly snowfall have you shivering or wishing you could race back inside, you might not be the only one. Cold weather can be just as uncomfortable for your pets.

As the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals noted, winter's cold can result in minor discomforts for animals, such as dry skin, or more serious dangers, especially for outdoor pets. The ASPCA advised giving your pets many of the same courtesies you would give yourself:  apply lotion to their dry or irritated skin or feet, towel off any excess snow or moisture when returning inside and maybe even give them a little extra food. A few additional calories in the wintertime can help your pet have some much needed extra energy.

Keep an eye on outdoor animals

If it's too cold for you or your family to be outside, it's also too cold for your dog or cat. As The Humane Society advised, dogs will still need to go out for frequent walks and exercise, but they'll be much happier inside the rest of the time. Short-haired dogs may even benefit from wearing a sweater during their outdoor adventures. If your dog or cat needs to stay outside during the day, be sure to create areas of shelter for them. These shelters should protect your pet from wind and have a covered floor that's raised from the ground.

"If it's too cold for you to be outside, it's also too cold for your dog or cat.”

If your neighborhood has stray or feral outdoor cats, you can create an outdoor shelter for them as well. The Humane Society advised inexpensive materials, such as plastic storage bins with floors covered in pillowcases stuffed with packing peanuts or straw, can make effective, warm structures. Some cities may also offer trapping programs where feral cats can be humanely captured and taken to animal shelters for adoption.

Because cats and other small creatures may climb into your car engine to seek shelter and warmth, you should also bang on your hood before starting your ignition. This will scare the animal out of the car so it will not be hurt.

Preventative protection for pets

Finally, the American Veterinary Medical Association recommended bringing your pets to their vet for a preventive care exam before cold weather sets in. Winter conditions may aggravate some existing medical problems such as arthritis, the AVMA notes. Additionally, if your pet has diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease or hormonal imbalances, it can be difficult for their bodies to stay warm. Older pets are also more at risk for injury from slipping on icy pavement.

For pets of all ages, a vet visit can also be an opportunity to have your dog or cat microchipped or update their collar tags. Both these measures can help your lost pet be returned to you, and that's especially important in the winter. Snow and ice can dampen smells that would otherwise help them to find their way home.