Winter is a time for hibernation for many animals… and sometimes humans. Winter poses just as many threats to your pet’s well being as summer with dangerous temperatures and hazards during walks. While you may feel like staying indoors all winter, you and your pet can still enjoy some fresh air with a few precautions:
Even long coated or double coated breeds that derive from colder climates like Siberian Huskies shouldn’t be left outside over night or for extended periods of time during the day. Even these breeds are at risk for hypothermia and frostbite! If your dog does live outside though, be sure to provide them with a nice insulated box that they can go into to escape the bitter wind-chill and snow
It can be hard to get out of our warm, cozy beds during the winter but you will really thank yourself later because exercising your pet during the winter helps reduce boredom, keeps them from going stir crazy and helps manage the extra weight they may be gaining to ‘bulk up’ so that they don’t become overweight. A fun way to combat this is to use the Nerf Tennis Blaster- it launches up to 50ft, but can also be adjusted to different lengths per the dog’s size, and with the easy reload feature you won’t have to touch the snowy ball! You could even stand inside your back door and launch from the house if you really wanted to!
As mentioned above, some pets bulk up during the cold winter months which are fine… but just remember to tailor the portions to match their activity levels so that they have a balanced diet rather than become overweight. The colder temps can also lead to dehydration or weakness, so be sure to check that their water isn’t frozen outside if they’ll be out for long periods of time!
Just like the summer, don’t leave pets in a car on a cold day as the same risks apply.. albeit opposite. Extreme cold can cause frostbite, or hypothermia just like extreme hot can cause heatstroke among other things.
There is an increased risk for anti-freeze and other harmful fluids to be present in puddles which can be fatal if ingested and irritate the skin. Try investing in booties for your pet, or wipe them thoroughly off after going for walks with warm water. Try a Pet Mitt to help soak up the wetness… bonus: its machine washable!
Salt and ice melts can irritate and burn the skin which is not only uncomfortable but can lend your pet at the vet as they can also be fatal if ingested which is why its very important to wipe your entire pet over so ensure nothing has stuck to them. To lower the risk of injury, use a pet friendly ice melt around your home!
Small animals like cats love to hunker down during a storm in your car’s wheel wells or other nooks. Before you turn your car on, bang your hood or sides of the car to let them know you’re there and they’ll probably run away at that point.
While most pets have sufficient layers built in ( like double coated breeds) you may want to consider a coat or sweater for your pet, or booties to help protect their paws (and keep them clean!) Even if your pet is just going out to the backyard to do their business, you m ay want to consider an outer layer for them because the cold effects them just like it affect us, and short times in very low temps can have a dangerous impact on them.
Winter means longer nights since it gets darker earlier, which can make after dinner walks more dangerous! During these cold winter nights, try using a lead with reflective features, a collar with LED lights or a coat (for you and your dog!) with reflective features as well.
It never hurts to be prepared! The Ontario SPCA and Humane Society has a pet emergency kit list that they suggest you have on hand in case of major black-outs or snow storms:
While this list may seem a little extreme to you- especially since we live in a place accommodated to snow and all of winter’s tricks, unlike parts of the USA that got hit by surprise snow storms in 2015 for the first time in years and whole counties shut down; there are a few good tips in the list that you could modify: like buying the next dog food bag/ litter when the current one is half full so you don’t run out in the middle of a storm, keep an updated photo of your pet and all important info handy in case they are lost and have a pet carrier that is the proper size (and that your pet likes the carrier) in case of emergencies and you have to leave in a hurry.