Get ready – winter is coming! And while snowy weather can be magically beautiful, it also comes with additional risks and hazards for our pets. Here are 10 tips to keep your pet safe this winter:
Safety Tip 1: Book Your Pet a Vet Check-Up!
It may seem like overkill, but a quick check-up can ensure your pet is ready for the winter months. Many health conditions can worsen in cold, damp weather so getting a head start gives you the upper hand.
While you're there, consider getting your pet microchipped if they aren’t already! All that snow on the ground can cover up common scents and smells that your pet might rely on for getting back home. This is especially important if you’re a parent to a kitty who likes to spend time outdoors or if you have a pup who manages to sneak out often!
Safety Tip 2: Never Leave Your Pet in a Car Alone!
Just like you shouldn’t leave your pet in your car on a hot summer’s day, you should never leave your pet in your vehicle in the cold, snowy weather.
During the cold season our vehicles can trap all that cold air and can cause your pet to freeze. You may think even a quick trip into the store won’t hurt but, and we cannot stress this enough, it is better to be safe than sorry.
Safety Tip 3: Speaking of Cars…Check for Cats Seeking Warmth!
Outdoor cats will often seek shelter in the winter…and under the hood of your car is a great spot to camp out in overnight. If a cat is catnapping under your hood, starting the engine can be fatal for them. Just a quick knock on the hood before starting your car is usually enough to scare a cat out of their nap.
Safety Tip 4: Keep Your Pet on a Leash for Winter Walks!
Keeping your pup on a leash is the best way to ensure winter safety. Snowy weather can confuse our pets, messing with their scent tracking. If your pet gets lost, they may not be able to find their way home.
In addition, if your pup runs off and gets lost and a snowstorm comes in they may not be able to find warm shelter and could freeze.
When on walks, it’s also important to keep your pet away from large bodies of water and even puddles. The cold water can dampen their ability to swim and may increase their risk of drowning.
Wet fur in cold outdoor temperatures can make them feel THAT much colder as they’ll lose their natural insulation mechanisms.
Even small puddles should be avoided. Our pets’ paw pads are quite durable but stepping into cold puddles can leave them at risk of wear-and-tear.
By using a leash you can help to avoid jumps into large bodies of water and puddles. Keep your pet safe on a walk by using a secure leash (avoid retractable leashes).
Safety Tip 5: Dress Your Pet for the Winter Weather!
Some breeds may be naturally well-equipped to withstand the winter weather. For those that aren’t so genetically lucky they may need some additional help.
Jackets and sweaters can be purchased for a range of pups that will help them maintain their normal body temperature during a chilly walk.
Often overlooked is the benefit of booties and paw protectants. Cold weather, salts, and other chemicals can all impact the integrity of your pups’ paws. Putting on booties and applying a paw protectant and/or soothing balm can keep your pups’ paws healthy and help avoid cracking, breaking, and soreness.
For cat parents – if you have a cat who likes to spend some time outdoors, always check and consider the weather before letting them out. Though it should be noted here that we are strong believers in indoor only cats – especially during the winter months.
If a snowstorm is predicted for the near future, keep your cat inside! Cats may seek shelter in unlikely places during the cold which could be fatal (see Tip 3). Your cat may also get lost or may be unable to find warm shelter which can also result in detrimental consequences.
Safety Tip 6: Dry Your Pet Off When They Come Back in From the Snow!
Do you ever notice your skin getting drier in the winter months? Well, it’s no different for our pups! Going from the damp cold to the dry warmth can do a number on their skin and coat health.
To avoid dry, flaky, and itchy skin, be sure to dry off your pet when they come inside. This includes their delicate paw pads too!
Some ways to help your pet can include running a humidifier to keep moisture in the air, applying pet-friendly moisturizers, and of course, paw protectants and soothing creams.
Safety Tip 7: Bathe Your Pet Only as Necessary!
Too many baths, at any time of year, can dry the skin. In the winter months when the air is dryer this can cause flaky, itchy skin. Minimizing the number of baths during the winter can help avoid drying out your pets’ skin.
Obviously, baths may be necessary. After bathing your pet though be sure to dry them off well and consider applying a moisturizer.
Safety Tip 8: Keep It Clean from Chemicals!
Chemicals such as coolant, antifreeze, and even sidewalk salt can all be toxic, if not lethal, to our pets. If you must use these chemicals, be sure to store them out of reach from your pets. And clean up well after using them.
Safety Tip 9: Adjust Exercise and Diet as Necessary!
For many pets, getting outside for long walks in the winter is not an option. This means some adjustments may have to be made to keep your pet healthy and thriving!
Indoor exercise is always an option. Encouraging your pet to walk around the house with you a few times a day is an easy way to get your pet moving. Playing indoors with fun chasing toys can help increase exercise. In addition, food toys can be used to encourage movement.
When exercise levels decrease, you may also have to adjust your pets’ food intake, such as reducing the number of calories they are consuming.
Always consult your veterinarian prior to making any changes to your pets’ diet and food intakes.
Safety Tip 10: Be Prepared for a Winter Emergency!
Winter is unpredictable – and a snowstorm could hit at any time leading to power outages. When this happens, it’s best to be prepared.
We recommend having a pet emergency kit available just in case! An emergency kit should always include food and water to last for a few days (typically up to one week’s worth).
Additional items to keep in an emergency is an emergency blanket (i.e. Mylar Emergency Blanket) to keep your pet safe and warm, plus extra blankets and a pet bed. Booties and paw protectants can be a great addition as well.
If you have any questions on how to keep your pet safe during the cold winter months you can always contact your local veterinarian.
Some other helpful resources can include:
- Ontario SPCA and Humane Society: https://ontariospca.ca/
- The ASPCA: https://www.aspca.org/
- American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA): https://www.avma.org/resources-tools/pet-owners/petcare/cold-weather-animal-safety
Article Written by
Hannah Godfrey, Animal Nutritionist
BSc.H. | MSc. | Ph.D. Student in Animal Nutrition