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Preparing for Winter as a Pet Owner

family-footer When the cold temperatures set in, you winterize your home, salt your walkways, and get a flu shot… but what about your pets? Your furry friends also require some special provisions to keep them warm, healthy, and happy through snowy days and cold nights. Read on to discover ways to protect your pets and ensure that the purrs and tail wags last all winter long.

Keep Your Pets Warm

Since they can’t start a fire or put on a sweater, your pets rely on you for comfort. Inside pets and outside pets have very different needs in the winter:

Inside pets: If your cat or dog lives in the house with you 100% of the time, you don’t have to worry much about frostbite and hypothermia. But if your home feels a little too chilly to you during the winter, your pets are probably thinking the same thing. If you want your pal to be cozy, make sure to provide extra blankets. If they frequently sleep or lounge on non-carpeted floors, consider purchasing a bed just for them so they don’t have to lie directly on the floor.

For dogs in particular, think about when you’re walking them. If your routine now has them walking in the dark when temperatures are significantly lower, consider changing it to walk them during daylight hours as much as possible.

Outside pets: Pets that live outside are at risk of frostbite and hypothermia during very low temperatures. The general rule is: If it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for them. Your pet’s fur keeps him warm, but lying on the cold ground with no shelter will leach the heat out of their body no matter how much fur they have.

Get ready for winter by making sure your outdoor pet has a shelter that is tight, free of drafts, and doesn’t let rain in. Get them off the cold ground with thick wool blankets. You can put the bedding on top of a pallet to lift them even higher off the ground. It’s best to make provisions for keeping your pet inside when temperatures drop significantly. Huskies and other cold-weather breeds might be okay sleeping in a waterproof kennel, but dogs not bred for cold climates will suffer in very cold weather.

Protect their paws

The pads on your dogs’ and cats’ paws are just like your fingers – they’re not protected against the cold and can dry out in the winter. Keep a towel by the door, as well as any treats or toys needed to help keep your pet in one place. When your pets enter from outside, stop them at the door and check their paws. Clean and dry them, making sure to dry between their toes and remove any snow or ice. If your dog is going to be outside a lot during snow and ice, consider investing in some specialized booties to keep their paws clean, warm, and dry. You can also purchase protective wax for your dogs’ paws that forms a barrier against ice, snow, and chemicals.

Watch out for winter hazards

Winter brings extremely cold weather, as well as many fun and festive traditions. Both of these can represent added risks for your pet, so be aware of the following items:

  • Holiday lights – They provide a festive flair, but they can electrocute your pet or present a fire risk when chewed on. Keep them out of your pets’ reach!
  • Holiday decorations – Even non-electric decorations pose a threat to your pets if ingested. Tinsel, ornaments, wrapping paper, and anything new and shiny could be tempting for your pet to chew on and swallow. Keep them out of your pets’ reach, or don’t leave your pet alone with them.
  • Fireplaces & space heaters – Your pet may want to snuggle close to a space heater or fireplace for warmth, which could result in singed fur, burns, or house fires. Never leave your pet unsupervised around an open heat source.
  • Winter treats – Winter activities often involve a slew of baking and cooking. Trays of gingerbread cookies, warm apple pies, and Christmas hams sitting on counters can present a tantalizing temptation to your pet. Keep these treats out of reach of your furry friend to prevent hurt tummies and ruined dinners.
  • Salt/De-icers – If you live in an area with frequent snowfall, it’s common for cities and homeowners to use salt and de-icing products on sidewalks and walkways. Be mindful of walking your dog over these – they can dry out paws and are often toxic if ingested. Avoid walking in those areas, or protect your pet’s paws with booties or wax paw protectors.
  • Antifreeze – This chemical is used to keep cars running in cold weather. It tastes sweet but is highly toxic. Puddles of antifreeze in garages and driveways can be tempting to pets, so clean it up as soon as there is a spill.

Contact Germantown Veterinary Clinic for Any Winter Pet Woes

Winter presents several new challenges for pet owners, but with the right preparations in place, you can rest assured that your furry friends will be safe and happy. However, mishaps can occur in spite of the best-laid plans. If your pet eats your ornaments, gorges on your holiday meal, or shows signs of frostbite, give us a call.

We provide emergency care during regular business hours (call (240) 252-7467) and after hours at the Blue Pearl Pet Hospital in Rockville (call (301) 972-9730). You can also contact us online with any questions about keeping your pet safe this winter.

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