Winter can be a season of bitter cold and the healthiest pets are those who are taken out often for exercise but kept inside the rest of the time. Thanks to the ASPCA, the following tips will help you protect your companion animals when the mercury dips.
1. Keep your cat inside. Outdoors, felines can freeze, become lost or be stolen, injured or killed. Cats who are allowed to stray are exposed to infectious diseases, including rabies, from other cats, dogs and wildlife.
2. Never let your dog off leash on snow or ice, especially during a snowstorm.
Dogs can lose their scent and easily become lost. More dogs are lost during the winter than during any other season, so make sure yours always wears a collar and ID tag.
3. Thoroughly wipe off your dog's legs & stomach when he comes in out of the snow or ice. He can ingest salt, antifreeze or other potentially dangerous chemicals while licking his paws, and his paw pads may also bleed from snow or encrusted ice.
4. Never shave your dog down to the skin in winter, as a longer coat provides more warmth. When you bathe your dog in the colder months, be sure to completely dry him before taking him out for a walk. Own a short-haired breed? Consider getting him a dog coat or dog sweater with a high collar or turtleneck with coverage from the base of the tail to the belly. For many dogs, this is regulation winter wear.
5. Never leave your dog or cat alone in a car during cold weather. A car can act as a refrigerator in the winter, holding in the cold and causing the animal to freeze to death.
6. Puppies do not tolerate the cold as well as adult dogs, and may be difficult to housebreak during the winter. If your puppy appears to be sensitive to the weather, you may opt to paper-train him inside. If your dog is sensitive to the cold due to age, illness or breed type, take him outdoors only to relieve himself.
7. Give them extra calories. Does your dog spend a lot of time engaged in outdoor activities? Increase his supply of food, healthy treats, particularly protein, to keep him—and his fur—in tip-top shape.
8. Avoid anti-freeze & other coolants. Like coolant, antifreeze is a lethal poison for dogs and cats. Be sure to thoroughly clean up any spills from your vehicle, and consider using products that contain propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol. Visit the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center more information.
9. Make sure water bowls are not frozen. Check bowls periodically throughout the day and consider using plastic food and water bowls rather than metal; when the temperature is low, your pet's tongue can stick and freeze to metal.
10. Make sure your companion has a warm place to sleep, off the floor and away from drafts. A cozy dog bed or cat bed with a warm blanket is a good idea.