5 ways to keep your pets safe and comfortable in winter

A cat and a dog cuddling in the snow.

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Cats, dogs, birds, other pets, as well as farm animals need protection in winter. Here are a few tips to help them stay healthy throughout the season:

  1. Keep them inside

    Don’t leave your pets outside for a long time. Cat and dog ears and paws get frostbite. Pets roaming outside can get lost in blowing snow. Set the room temperature for caged birds indoors.

    Take your dog for shorter walks. Don’t take small breed, short-coated dogs like Chihuahuas or Miniature Pinschers for walks in extreme cold.

    Don’t leave pets inside the car. Heat can build up. They will not be able to breathe. They will freeze to death if the heater is not on. Come back quickly to your car if you need to bring your pet. Make sure they are warm. Bring some blankets for them. Leave your window open a little to give them air.

  2. Feed them a little more food

    Give your pets a little more food. They will need it to keep warm. Don’t overfeed them too much. They will have less exercise in winter. Give them water. Make sure that the water in their drinking bowl is not frozen. Refill often or get a heated dog bowl.

  3. Protect their skin

    • Don’t shave your dog’s hair completely. The thick hair can keep them warm.
    • Put a jacket on your short-haired dog.
    • Give them less baths. Don’t strip their natural oils. This prevents dry, flaky skin especially for dogs.
    • Wipe their feet and bellies after walking outside. Remove salt and chemicals they picked up from the snow.
    • Keep your pets dry. Use petroleum jelly or booties to protect your dog’s paw pads.
  4. Keep their sleeping area warm and cozy

    Give them a dog or a cat bed. Put it in a warm area. Cover bird cages at night. Birds like extra warmth in the evening. Put space heaters far from your pets. Place barriers to radiators and fireplaces.

  5. Remove dangerous chemicals

    Check if your car’s radiator leaks antifreeze. Antifreeze tastes sweet to dogs. It is poisonous. Wash out antifreeze leaks with water so that roaming animals will not be harmed. Keep pets away from the garage.

Watch out for animals seeking warmth:

Outdoor cats and other pets may crawl under the hood of your car. They do this to keep warm. Honk your horn or tap your car’s hood before starting your engine. This will wake sleeping cats.

Rescue pets left out in the cold. Look for their owner. Or:

Exotic pets (e.g. lizards, snakes, tortoises) need specific care. They need more warmth in winter. Consult a veterinarian for proper care.

Sources: Keeping your pets warm this winter: Cold weather safety tips, Winnipeg Humane Society; Cold weather safety tips, ASPCA; 15 winter care tips for your dog, Dr. Ashwani Singh, Dogs Naturally; Winter care for pet birds, Ontario SPCA and Humane Society.

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