5 Ways Your Pet Could Be Making You Sick | Pet Care
How to Keep Your Pets Safe in Winter
Humans are not the only creatures that get cold during the winter. Many people falsely believe that animals can handle the cold because they are covered in fur coats. This is not always true, and animals need just as much protection from the cold as humans do. If you have pets, learn how to protect them during the winter so they will stay safe and warm.
Protecting Indoor Pets While Outdoors During the Winter
Limit your pet’s time outside.During the winter, it is very important to limit the amount of time indoor pets spend outside. Most indoor pets are unprepared and not used to outdoor conditions, such as cold temperatures, wind, and snowy grounds.
- When you take your dog out to use the bathroom, make sure not to spend more time outside than necessary. After your dog is finished, return inside promptly.
- If your take your dog outside for walks, consider taking him on several shorter walks a day instead of one long walk to limit the amount of time outside. If possible, come up with indoor exercise alternatives, such as games of fetch, tug of war, or other forms of indoor exercise.
- Check your dog’s paws during cold weather. Cold temperatures can cause injury to paws, such as cracked pads or bleeding. If the dog starts limping during an outdoor walk during cold temperatures, immediately check the paws to make sure he doesn’t have ice in his paws or another problem.
Place your pets in sweaters.Sweaters are cute fashion statements for pets, but during cold weather, they can be important for your pet’s safety. Short-haired dogs can be extremely sensitive the cold weather, especially during drastic cold snaps or severe wind chills. During severe cold weather, pets can be at risk for frostbite and hypothermia.
- When you take your dog on walks during cold weather, put a sweater or jacket on him. This is especially important for short-haired or small dogs, but even larger dogs with longer hair can be affected by the cold.
- Sweaters can also help while your pet is in the house. Cats and dogs can get cold indoors as well. If your pet is shivering, consider placing a sweater on him.
- Noses, ears, and paws can suffer the most damage during cold weather. Consider finding ways to cover these areas during cold snaps, or modify outdoor activities during harsh, severe conditions.
Remove any salt from paws.When you take your dog for walks on treated roads or sidewalks, his paws may pick up salt remnants. This can be harmful for your pet. Salt and other chemicals can irritate your pet’s mouth and feet. If you pet licks his paws, he could ingest these chemicals, too.You can let your pet wear booties to protect his feet from elements and chemicals. Just make sure to buy booties that fit your pet’s feet well.
- Carefully clean paws when you return from outdoors. This helps remove the salt and chemicals.
- Consider wiping down the belly and legs, too, especially if your dog is short and the belly may have come in contact with salt or chemicals.
Recognize your pet’s limits.Your pet’s tolerance to cold depends on a lot of factors. If you have more than one pet, your pets may have different tolerances to cold. One may love the cold and enjoy running in the snow, while another may find it difficult and painful. Pay attention to your pets during cold weather to see their reaction. Adjust your exercise and other outdoor routines accordingly.
- Some conditions may limit the tolerance your pet has for cold weather. Pets with arthritis may have a lot of trouble walking in extreme cold. Conditions like diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, or diseases like Cushing’s disease may not be able to regulate their body temperature. Watch your pet closely if he has any of these conditions.
- Young pets and elderly pets may have more trouble than other pets. Take great care when exposing young and elderly pets to cold weather.
Use caution when walking pets.When you walk your pet, make sure to use caution. Look for slippery, icy areas on sidewalks, paths, or roads. Not only is this a hazard for you, but your pet can slip as well.
- Don’t let your pet run on frozen lakes, puddles, or other frozen water. Pets can easily fall through ice, which could cause death. If you try to save your pet, you could put yourself in danger as well.
Taking Care of Your Indoor Pets During The Winter
Provide blankets.Even though your pet lives indoors, he may still get cold. Provide blankets for him to curl into on his bed, on the floor, or on furniture he is allowed to be on. You may also think about moving your pet’s bed to warmer areas in the house, away from windows, doors, or other drafty areas. Watch your pet and make sure he is comfortably warm inside your house during cold weather.
- Make sure your pet is not sleeping on the floor. Give him a bed made of blankets, a pet bed, or a pillow. Floors can retain cold and make your pet even colder.
Keep your pet dry.When your pet comes in from outdoors, dry him with a towel to remove any melting snow or precipitation. Make sure to remove snowballs or ice from the paws.
- If you pet is wet, it can have trouble getting warm and cause problems.
Reduce the amount of food.Indoor pets expend less energy during the winter. They sleep more and usually exercise less. This means you need to reduce the amount of food you are feeding your pet.
- Watch your pet for weight gain. If you think your pet is gaining weight, limit his food intake every day.
Refrain from shaving your pets during the winter.While proper grooming is still important, refrain from shaving pets down to the skin during cold months. Longer hair can help keep your pet warm.
- Keep your pet trimmed to reduce the amount of snow and ice that gets caught in his hair during walks. This is especially important around his feet. Trim the hair between his toes and around his feet.
Avoid leaving your pet in cold cars.Just like in hot weather, leaving your pet in a car during cold weather can be harmful or deadly. Cars that are turned off and sitting can become cold extremely fast, which means your pet left inside will be exposed to extremely cold temperatures. Consider limiting any travel for your pet, especially if the pet will be left inside a car for a period of time.
- You should never leave young, old, ill, thin, or short-haired pets unattended in cold cars.
Pet-proof your home.Since you will be keeping your pet inside, make sure to protect your pet from potential dangers. Always watch your pet around space heaters to make sure he doesn’t get burned or knock it over, which is a potential fire hazard. If you have a fireplace, use a guard to keep pets from getting burned.
Protecting Outdoor Pets During The Winter
Bring your pet indoors.If at all possible, bring your pet indoors during extreme temperatures and cold weather storms. This could be a room in your home or even a garage. Cold temperatures can be harmful even to outdoor pets.
- If you bring your pet into your garage, make sure there is no antifreeze spills or other chemicals on the floor. This could cause death.
- If your pet is in your garage, don’t start your car in a closed garage. This could lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.
Provide a shelter.If you pet spends most of his time outdoors and bringing him indoors is not an option, provide a shelter for him. This may be a doghouse, an outbuilding, or shed. When you provide a doghouse for your dog, it needs to be dry inside, as well as protected from wind. The dog should be able to comfortably enter, sit, and lie down inside. Ideally, it should be small enough to trap heat to help keep the dog warm.
- Cover the floor with shavings or straw. Make sure the floor is raised a few inches off the ground. The ground can hold cold and make your pet even colder.
- If possible, cover the door with burlap or plastic. Arrange the doorway away from winds.
- Don’t use space heaters or heat lamps. These are fire hazards and can possibly burn your pet.
Check the paws, nose, and ears.Paws are particularly susceptible to cold weather damage, as are noses and ears. If your pet is kept outdoors, keep a watch on the paws, nose, and ears. Check for cracked pads or bleeding paws. Make sure no ice is accumulating on the paws.
Feed your pet enough food.Outdoor pets need more food during the winter. They burn more energy during the winter trying to stay warm. Consider adding an extra meal each day, or increasing the amount you feed your pet each day.
- Don’t use metal food bowls during the winter because an animal’s tongue may stick to the metal in cold temperatures.
Keep water unfrozen.Pets require constant access to water, and outdoor pets are no exception. The problem for outdoor pets during cold weather is frozen water. If the temperature outdoors is below freezing, your pet’s water may freeze. Check throughout the day to make sure the water is not frozen.
- Keep the water unfrozen by changing it frequently. You can also buy pet-safe heated water bowls.
- Do not place water in metal bowls. Your pet’s tongue may stick to the metal.
Protect your pet from salt.If you have a pet who stays outside, try to protect him from salt. This may mean keeping your outdoor dog in an area where you do not treat the ground with salt or other chemicals. This can protect the dog from getting it on his paws, which can cause irritation. It also protects from your dog licking his paws or licking the ground and ingesting harmful chemicals.
Remove all antifreeze from around your pet.Antifreeze is poisonous and can kill pets. If your pet stays outside, make sure to keep antifreeze carefully put away so the dog or cat can stay out of it. If you get antifreeze on your driveway, clean it as best you can so your pet (or other neighborhood pets) will not be tempted to lick it.
- Antifreeze has a sweet odor, so pets may be attracted to it.
Keep your pet on a leash.You should keep your pet on a leash during cold weather, especially during storms. Snow and ice can cause scents to easily get lost, so dogs might lose their way and be unable to find their way home or back to you if they get off the leash.
Check under the hood of your car.Cats can crawl into warm car engines during cold weather for warmth and shelter. If a cat is under your hood when you start your car, this can either injure or kill the cat. To prevent this, bang on the hood, blow your horn, or check under your hood before starting your car during cold weather.
Looking After Other Types of Pets
Protect birds from cold.If you have a pet bird, make sure to protect her from cold weather. Move her bird cage to a warm location, away from drafts, doors, and windows.
Take care of your horse.Though large, horses also need to be looked after in extreme cold temperatures. Your horse should have access to a secure shelter, like a barn or three sided structure. This shelter should protect the horse from the wind and elements.
- If needed, place a blanket on your horse to keep her warm and dry.
- Make sure your horse has plenty of food since staying warm burns more energy. Feed your horses more forage during colder months. Keep a check on your horse’s water supply to make sure it is not frozen.
Keep your rabbits protected.If you have outdoor rabbits, make sure to protect them during cold months. Most rabbits are able to withstand colder temperatures. However, if it is freezing, you need to make sure to protect them. Consider moving rabbits indoors, or into an unused garage, shed, or outdoor building during freezing temperatures. Make sure to ensure the rabbits have plenty of exercise areas if you move them.
- If you leave your rabbits outdoors, make sure they have ways to keep warm. This includes extra bedding. Make sure the rabbits’ home is protected from rain, snow, wind, and other adverse elements. The house should be protected from drafts.
- Make sure to keep your rabbits dry. The worst thing for rabbits during cold weather is to be in a wet or drafty home.
Monitor for pets left outdoors in unsafe conditions.If you see a pet in your area who is left outdoors without the proper safety measures, talk to the owner. If there is no change, document the conditions and report it to animal control or the sheriff’s office.
- You can politely follow up after a few days if the pet has not been provided for.
- When documenting a case, note the date, time, and location. You also need to provide the type of animal. Describe the details of the unsafe care as specifically as possible. If possible, take a video or photo with a camera or cell phone. Providing as much evidence as possible will help the situation be dealt with.
- If your pet starts whining, shivering, becomes anxious, moves slowly, stops moving, becomes weak, or starts trying to find warm places, get him inside quickly. These are signs of hypothermia.
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