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How to Keep Your Pet Protected in Cold Weather

Here’s how to keep your beloved pet safe in freezing temperatures

A woman with long brown hair wearing a white winter coat, a grey and white toque, a black and white striped scarf, jeans and boots is walking in a snowy field. She is holding onto a leash with a medium-sized dog with an ivory coat that is sniffing the snow. The dog is wearing a burgundy and red scarf tied around its neck.

No matter how cold it is, your pet may still need some time outside. Here are eight tips to keep your furry friends safe this winter.

Dress for the cold

When it comes to your pet’s natural coat, “save the buzz cut for summer,” says Hannah Sotropa, assistant manager of communications at the Toronto Humane Society. A little extra hair will provide your pet with additional warmth. The bellies of long-haired breeds can be trimmed to minimize clinging ice and salt.

Short-haired breeds may need winter jackets and boots. If your pet refuses to wear boots, petroleum jelly or paw protectants can help protect and shield their paw pads from ice, salt and chemicals.

After your walk, wash or wipe your pet’s paws and underside and dry thoroughly.

Limit outdoor time

If you’re going out for a walk, choose a route that is close to home. You’ll be able to return home quickly if your animal is not tolerating the conditions well, says Sotropa.

If your pet is taking frequent breaks, lifting its paws or shivering, that is your cue to head home to warm up.

Take care on walks

Keep your dog leashed during snowstorms, away from puddles and off icy ponds, as it may be too thin to support their weight.

Watch for frostbite

Cold-related issues can occur at any temperature below freezing, says Sotropa.

Signs of frostbite include:

  • feet are cracked, bleeding, swollen or hardened
  • edges of ears have become crusted
  • skin has turned red, black or blue
  • paw pads or toenails are being licked or chewed
  • cries, growls or snaps from your pet when you attempt to touch them

“Hypothermia occurs when a pet cannot maintain core body temperature at normal levels and can be fatal without emergency help,” she adds.

Spend time indoors

“Pets who do more than zip outside to poop and pee need appropriate protection from frigid conditions,” says Sotropa. Even if your furry friend normally likes to spend lots of time outside, bring them in on chilly days.

Never leave an unsupervised pet in a vehicle in the winter. If you can’t bring them in with you, they will be much safer at home.

Be a responsible homeowner

Use pet-safe ice melt and clean up any antifreeze spills from your car. At this time of year, stray animals often seek warmth under vehicles, so knock on the hood of your car before taking off—you may save a life.

Mind senior pets

Older pets may have a tougher time staying comfortable during the winter. “Senior cats and dogs may not be able to move as quickly or stay moving due to arthritis, vision and general health,” says Sotropa.

So, take extra care and time with senior pets in the winter.

Be prepared

Keep an emergency pet kit in your home in case of a power outage or storm. Include the following for each pet:

  • a 72-hour supply of food and water, along with two bowls
  • blankets and towels
  • a carrier or crate
  • an extra collar, leash, harness and muzzle if necessary
  • copies of your pet’s medical records
  • medications
  • a pet first aid kit
  • ID tags and microchip number
  • contact information for your vet, including an emergency number

Take care

Your pets are part of the family and CAA understands they need to be protected, too. CAA Pet Insurance provides peace of mind for you and your loved ones in case of an accident or illness. Visit CAA Pets for more information.

Image credit: StefaNikolic/iStock

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