Whether you enjoy the cold and all this season brings, or are eagerly wishing for spring, take a moment to review the information below to help make this winter a safe one!
Keep your pet warm. Keep him or her indoors when possible. If it is not feasible to do so, provide adequate shelter and bedding. For trips out and about, use a jacket or sweater if he or she has short/fine hair or is cold-sensitive.
Pamper paws. When walking your dog in the snow, check his or her feet for snow clumps between the toes. They can be painful and lead to frostbite, so remove them promptly, if present. It may also help to keep hair on toes trimmed short. Paw butter may help repel moisture, and if your pet is especially sensitive, he or she may appreciate wearing protective booties on winter walks.
Clear a path if snowy. Avoid preventable injuries by making sure your pet can safely get outside to go to the bathroom.
Use pet-safe ice melting products. If you happen to walk your dog in an area where salt has been spread, wash his or her feet when you get home (the salt can be irritating to the paw pads or cause stomach upset if licked off).
Use caution if ice is present. The edges of broken ice can be very sharp and lead to cut paw pads and other foot injuries. Rough/active play on slippery surfaces should be discouraged due to risk of potentially serious slip-and-fall injuries to both you and your pet.
Use pet-safe anti-freeze. Never use ethylene glycol anti-freeze (this is a very common type). Even a couple licks of anti-freeze from a tiny spill or leak can lead to rapid kidney failure and death in both cats and dogs.
Re-evaluate diet. Some indoor pets are less active in cold weather and gain winter weight. To prevent this, decrease amount fed or transition to a lower calorie food. Remember, however, that keeping warm takes extra energy. Because of this, outdoor dogs may actually need supplemental food or a "high-pro" diet during the winter. And as always, be sure a water source remains available at all times. For outdoor water, prevent freezing by using a heated bowl or water fountain.
Tend to fences. Make sure the snow is not drifting along fences such that your pet can climb up and over the fence.
Identify your pet. Confirm that your pet has up-to-date identification tags and is microchipped so he or she can be rapidly returned to you if lost (especially important in cold weather).
Keep an emergency supply of essentials. Keep plenty of blankets and fresh bottled water on hand to be used in the event of a power outage. Stocking up on pet food, medication, and other important items is also a good idea, as winter travel can prove hazardous or impossible.
Make a kit. If you travel with your pet, consider carrying a winter survival kit consisting of pet food, bottled water, pet medication, pet bowls, extra blankets and towels, a leash or pet carrier, first aid kit, etc.
Car concerns. If you leave your car in an area potentially accessible to animals, keep in mind that roaming cats and other animals (e.g. wildlife) may climb into vehicle engine areas for warmth. Consider knocking on the hood of your car or honking your horn before starting the car to startle any unsuspecting creatures (engine injuries can be fatal).
Have a plan. Make arrangements for alternate care of your pet (e.g. friend, family member, or neighbor) in case you get stranded away from home.
Seek prompt medical care. Don't wait! Seek prompt veterinary attention when necessary because bad weather may limit your ability to travel, allowing a problem to become more serious as time passes.
Stay safe and may this season be a good one for you and your pet!