It seems safe to say that winter has officially fallen upon the Pacific Northwest! Mount Hood got a foot of new snow the past few days (good news for all you skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts)! Down here in the valley we are all enjoying the magical time of year when you don’t even need to look at the weather app to know ‘cold and rainy’ is in the forecast. But what does this change in seasons mean for our four legged friends? Read on for some winter weather pet safety tips to help keep your fur babies warm and cozy.

Cold Weather Pet Safety Tips

Tip 1: Know your pet

Animals can have different tolerance levels for cold based upon a variety of factors. Small, short legged, or short-haired breeds can be more likely to get chilly while bigger dogs, especially those with thicker coats, are naturally a bit more resistant to cold. Our lab mix loves nothing more than to galavant through the snow while our Frenchie, starts shivering almost immediately. Animals who are very young, elderly or those with certain health conditions (ie: heart disease, Cushings, diabetes, etc.) can also have more trouble regulating their own body temperature.

If you feel your pet is having trouble with the chilly weather, you can consider providing them with clothing such as a jacket, sweater or booties. Keep in mind (especially in the rainy Northwest), any clothing needs to stay dry or it can make your pet more chilly. Feel free to discuss any health concerns and how they may impact your pets cold weather needs with your veterinarian.

Tip 2: Keep your pets inside

No pet, regardless of coat thickness or breed, should be left outside for long periods of time in freezing weather. Dogs and cats (just like people) can get frostbite or hypothermia. Bring them inside where it’s warm when the weather gets chilly. If you cannot bring them inside, make sure they have access to a warm, clean, dry shelter from the elements. Make sure they have fresh, non-frozen water and plenty of thick bedding to snuggle into. Ideally the shelter floor should be off the ground to minimize heat loss and the potential for moisture to get in. They may also need more calories in the winter to maintain their body condition.

Tip 3: Protect their paws

Snow and ice can wreak havoc on paws. Check their paws regularly, especially after walks for any cracking, splitting, or other signs of injury. Consider using booties and also clipping the fur between the toes to prevent ice accumulation. You also want to make sure to wipe their paws (and legs or belly) with warm water or unscented baby wipes after walks when they may have been exposed to salt, deicers or other chemicals. It is also a good idea to familiarize yourself with potential toxins (ie: antifreeze which can be deadly) so you know what to avoid.

Tip 4: Look out for stray kitties!

Our outdoor feline friends can sometimes find a warm engine compartment to be an enticing place to curl up for a nap when its frosty outside. Before starting your car in the winter, make some noise. Bang on the hood a few times or honk the horn and give them a chance to jump out. As someone who has been through the terror of starting a car and hearing a cat scream, the extra effort is well worth it. (This is also another good reason to keep your kitties indoors!)

Tip 5: Be prepared for winter weather

Winter can bring storms and power outages that can affect your ability to get necessary supplies. It’s a good idea to keep 1-2 weeks worth of water, food and medication on hand in case of emergencies. Remember to request refills of medications and food from your veterinarian well in advance. The ASPCA has more information here on including your pets in your disaster preparedness planning.

Have a safe and warm winter season!

Thank you for reading our blog on winter weather pet safety tips! Feel free to contact us to let us know how we can help!

*Check out this AVMA website for more cold weather pet safety tips.