Winter Pet Safety Tips

December 8, 2016

It’s been an especially cold winter in Kitsap so far this year, so it’s more important than ever to make sure your pets are safe and comfortable. Check out these cold weather pet safety tips!


snow-dog-walkStay inside! 

Cats and dogs should be kept inside during cold weather. It’s a common belief that dogs and cats are resistant than people to cold weather because of their fur, but it’s untrue. Like people, cats and dogs are susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia and should be kept inside. Outside time during cold weather and snow should be supervised, and for short periods only. Also, stay home! Cars rapidly cool down in cold weather and can act like a refrigerator, posing significant risk to your pet. Limit car travel to only that which is necessary, and don’t leave your pet unattended in the vehicle.


Know your pet’s limits!

Just like people, animals’ cold tolerance can vary based on factors like their age, health, coat, body fat stores, and activity level. Pay attention to your pet’s tolerance for cold and keep an eye out for signs that your pet is uncomfortable.

Activity level– You will probably need to shorten your dog’s walks in very cold weather to protect you both from weather-associated health risks. Even dogs who typically love to play ball for hours on end will need to have their outside time limited to make sure they aren’t overdoing it or exposed to the elements for too long.

Age/health status– Pets with diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, or hormonal imbalances (such as Cushing’s disease) may have a harder time regulating their body temperature, and may be more susceptible to problems from temperature extremes. The same goes for very young and very old pets. Arthritic and elderly pets may have more difficulty walking on snow and ice and may be more prone to slipping and falling.

Size– Smaller and short-legged pets may become cold faster because their bellies and bodies are more likely to come into contact with snow-covered ground or frigid water.

Coat– Long-haired or thick-coated pets tend to be more cold-tolerant, but are still at risk in cold weather. Short-haired pets feel the cold faster because they have less protection.


Recognize problems!

If your pet is whining, shivering, seems anxious, slows down or stops moving, seems weak, or starts looking for warm places to burrow, get them back inside quickly because they are showing signs of hypothermia. Frostbite is harder to detect, and may not be fully recognized until a few days after the damage is done. If you suspect your pet has hypothermia or frostbite, consult your veterinarian immediately.


Check up after outside time!  

Check paws- Check your dog’s paws frequently for signs of cold-weather injury or damage, such as cracked paw pads or bleeding. During a walk, a sudden lameness may be due to an injury or may be due to ice accumulation between his/her toes. You may be able to reduce the chance of ice accumulation by clipping the hair between your dog’s toes.

Wipe down- During walks, your dog’s feet, legs and belly may pick up deicers, antifreeze, or other chemicals that could be toxic. When you get back inside, wipe down or wash your pet’s feet, legs and belly to remove these chemicals and reduce the risk poisoning if your dog licks or grooms itself.


winter-shelterWatch out for outside cats!

Most communities, especially in urban or suburban areas, have “community cats” (outside cats that may be feral, or may not have a specific owner and roam between feeding/resting locations). Animal lovers should keep an eye out for community cats during bad weather to make sure they are safe and have shelter.

Engine safety- During cold weather a warm vehicle engine can seem like a good heat source to outdoor or feral cats, but it can be deadly! Cats that hide up in cars for warmth can suffer from severe burns, loss of limbs and even death if the engine gets started while they are hiding in there. Before starting your engine make sure to check underneath your car, bang on the hood, and honk the horn- that should encourage any hiding cat to leave their spot under the hood.

Shelter- Feral and outdoor cats will be on the lookout for safe, warm shelter during cold weather and winter storms. You can help outdoor cats be safe and healthy by offering shelter that is well insulated, has minimal air space and is waterproof. There are many different guides and plans available online for construction inexpensive, DIY shelters that can be built in a matter of hours or less- check them out here!


dog-tagsMake sure to ID!

Many pets become lost in winter because snow and ice can hide recognizable scents that might normally help your pet find his/her way back home. Make sure your pet has a well-fitting collar with up-to-date identification and contact information. Microchips are more permanent form of ID, but it is important to make sure the registration with your contact info is kept up to date. KHS sells personalized, engraved pet ID tags for just $6, and holds low-cost microchip clinics every month.


Prevent poisoning!

Clean up any antifreeze spills quickly, as even small amounts of antifreeze can be deadly. Consider using pet-safe deicers on your property to protect your pets and the others in your neighborhood.


Be prepared for severe weather! 

Cold weather also brings the risks of high winds, freezing and snow which can cause power outages. Prepare a disaster/emergency kit, and include your pet in your plans. Have enough food, water and medicine on hand to get through at least 5 days.