Winter Weather Pet Safety

The Rochester weather can be frightful, especially for our four-legged friends. With temperatures dropping and snow falling, the winter season is not without its challenges. From chapped paws to dangerously low temperatures, our pets need our help to keep them safe and comfortable in the upcoming months. Here are some of the top tips to help pets stay warm this season.

How cold is too cold for my pets?

Some pets love the snow! It can be hard to keep them out of it. But it’s a good rule of thumb, that if you are uncomfortable being outside for extended periods of time, your pet is too. Pets, despite their fur coats, can be just as susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia as we are. Even dogs, more tolerant of cold weather, should not be left outside for long periods in below-freezing temperatures.

What type of shelter should I provide my pets?

Shelters such as dog houses may provide some shielding from the wind, but a lot of them are not rated to protect your pet in freezing temperatures. For this reason, it’s best to bring your pets in to the safety of your warm home once temperatures begin to drop, even those that live primarily outdoors. But if you need to keep your pet outside, opt for a shelter with insulation. You can even provide extra insulation by putting bedding such as cedar shavings or straw inside to help provide some extra warmth. Also make sure the shelter is large enough that they can lay down comfortably, but small enough that they can conserve body heat. Pets spending a lot of time outside should get more food to replace calories lost trying to stay warm. Lastly, make sure your pet has a plastic food and heated water dish. In freezing temperatures, their tongue can stick to metal dishes.

Vice President for Humane Law Enforcement Reno Di Domenico shows that not all dog houses provide adequate protection from freezing temperatures.

Does my pet need any type of special grooming during the winter?

You want your pet to always look their best, but now is not the time for any big haircuts, and you should never shave your dog down to the skin during the winter.  Your pet’s long coat provides them with warmth, and keeps the snow and ice from rubbing against their skin. You can help your long-haired pet by toweling them down when they come in from the snow. If your pet has short hair or seems sensitive to the colder weather, you may want to consider a coat or sweater to help keep them warm.

How can I help keep my pet’s paws safe?

Paw safety is particularly important during the winter. While outside, dogs and cats can pick up all kinds of toxic chemicals—salt, antifreeze, or de-icers. If they are licking their paws to get the snow off, they may also be ingesting these dangerous toxins. Furry paws can also pick up ice balls between toes and paw pads that can cause frost bite. So, it’s important to remember to wipe your pet’s paws off when they come in to help prevent them from getting sick or hurt. Protective boots can be particularly helpful for dogs that seem sensitive to the cold or have furry paw pads. Remember to also check for signs of injury, such as cracked or bleeding paw pads.

What can I do to prepare for winter weather emergencies?

Winter weather can bring on all sorts of misery including getting snowed in for days and power outages. Make sure your pet is part of your family’s emergency plan. Keep enough food, water, and medication to last your pet at least five days. Learn more about keeping your pet safe during an outage. You’ll be thankful you planned ahead.

What if my pet gets lost during the winter?

Pets can become lost during the winter because the snow and ice hide recognizable scents that may have helped them find their way home. Make sure you pet is fitted with a collar with up-to-date identification and contact information. A microchip can also be critical to identifying your pet and helping them be reunited with you if they are found and brought to a shelter. Check out these tips for more information about what to do if you lose or find a pet.

What can I do to help outdoor cats in my community during the winter?

Are you caring for community cats? Make sure you provide them with the food and shelter they need to survive the winter months. Cats need more food and water during cold weather because they expend a lot of extra energy keeping themselves warm. You can also make them a cat shelter to help give them a place to quickly get out of the cold.

You can quickly build a cat shelter to give outdoor cats in your neighborhood a warm place to escape the winter weather.

Should I keep anything in mind on car rides?

Before you even get in the car be sure to check under the hood. Community cats looking for a warm place to nap may curl up in the wheel wells or even under the hood. You can save a cat’s life by taking the time to bang loudly on the hood or honk your horn before turning on the engine.

Also did you know that leaving your pet in the car in the winter can be just as risky as in the summer? Your car can act like a refrigerator and temperatures can quickly drop.  Keep pets safe by leaving them at home where it is nice and warm while you run errands.