6 Steps to Winter Safety
Winter weather has an impact on how we live. Even though dogs and cats are covered in fur, winter can be hard on them too. Follow these safety tips to help your pets stay safe and warm.
1. Keep your pet warm & dry
Most dogs love playing outside in the winter. Their fur coats offer some protection, but many breeds were not meant to be outside in sub-zero temperatures (especially breeds with short hair). A coat will help. For extra protection, look for a coat with a waterproof shell, like the Trilogy jacket from RC Pet Products that has a waterproof removable outer layer and a lining of double-layer fleece. To keep cats protected from the harsh winter elements, it is recommended to keep them indoors, especially on the coldest days. Cats are vulnerable to snow and cold, and can suffer from hypothermia or frostbite as a result. If your cat is an outdoor-only cat, provide extra food so that he can bulk-up to fight the cold, and provide a shelter that protects from the wind and snow.
2. Protect your dog’s paws
Even the heartiest sled dogs wear boots in the winter, and a town/city dog needs them even more. In the winter, a sidewalk’s cold cement and the salt used to de-ice it wreaks havoc on a dog’s paws, causing them to dry out, crack and bleed. Prevent this discomfort with dog boots or a product like Dr. Maggie Paw Protector (only available in Canada) before your dog goes outside. This product works by providing a moisturizing wax barrier between your dog’s paws and the elements. Always wipe your dog’s paws when she comes back in the house to remove excess salt.
3. Check for cats in your car
If your cat goes outside in winter, she may want to be out for hours at a stretch. Cats are notorious nappers and even when outside, yours might be looking for a spot to catch some zzz’s. Unfortunately this napping place is often underneath the hood of a car – a place that’s protected from the wind and offers residual heat if your car has just been running. This hiding spot can become deadly when you start your car. The cat can get burned or caught in the moving parts, with tragic results. Throughout the winter, bang on your car hood before getting in your car. This gives napping cats a chance to wake up and escape to safety.
4. Beware of dangerous chemicals
Road salt may be a winter necessity, but it is bad for your pet’s paws and it can be hazardous if ingested. It contains potentially dangerous chemicals, such as chlorine, which pets inadvertently lick off their paws. Use a pet-safe product like Paw Thaw instead of salt at home. Paw Thaw uses a biodegradable formula instead of harmful chemicals to quickly melt the ice. Antifreeze is another chemical danger. Pets love the taste and will ingest it, which is often fatal. Keep antifreeze in a sealed container where your pets can’t reach it, and always clean up spills in the garage or driveway.
5. Improve your pet’s visibility
Winter brings long, dark nights. Improve your pet’s visibility with reflective collars and leashes, which allow your pet to be seen from up to 600 feet away!
6. Groom your pet more often
Due to dry winter air, both outside and in your home, your pet’s coat dries out, which causes painful matting and itchy, flaky skin. Regular brushing, shampooing and trimming prevent these problems from occurring and will keep their coat healthier. A healthy coat provides warmth and protection, so your dogs and cats can really enjoy winter!
Editor's note: This article was written by Leah Piltz and originally appeared in the Winter 2010 issue of Pet Valu Companion Magazine.