Pets should be brought inside when the temperature drops. If that is not possible, then shelter – a dog house, shed or barn – should be used to protect your pet from the wind, low temperatures, and inclement weather. Supply warm bedding material and make sure the doorway has at least a flap covering to keep out the wind.
Make sure pets have a clean and ice-free supple of water outside. Eating snow can cause diarrhea, so you want to have fresh water available. Just like people, dogs lose moisture when breathing in cold air – they can see their breath too! – and although dehydration is more common during summer months, it can happen in cold weather as well.
Antifreeze is extremely toxic to pets, causing kidney failure. Unfortunately, it is also very appealing to them. With its sweet taste, dogs and cats will happily lap it up from the garage floor or parking lot. It only takes a little to be deadly. Clean up after getting your vehicle serviced, and watch for tell-tale green spills in public areas. There are environmental and pet-safe antifreeze products to use.
Snow and ice-removal products can also cause digestive upset and topic redness or chemical burns on tender pads and feet. Wipe your dog’s feet with a damp towel if he/she has walked through de-icing products.
On a similar note, hair growing between the pads on the bottom of the foot can collect snow and ice. Keeping the hair trimmed will keep your dog from “skating.” Booties are available from retail pet supplies to help protect feet from chemicals, snow, and cold.
Regular grooming during winter will keep your pet’s coat in top condition to fend off the cold. A groomed fluffy coat creates insulation against cold air. A dog with matted fur will get colder and suffer from hypothermia much faster than a pet whose coat is maintained with regular grooming. Your grooming may also recommend using a coat conditioner or moisturizer during a grooming visit – winter is often a time to see dry flaky skin on dogs as well as on people.
Animals that are active outside in the winter will need to eat more. They burn more calories keeping warm as well as those needed for exercise.
Cats will crawl into warm places – especially in and under automobiles that have warm engines. A quick ban on the hood and looking underneath could save your (or your neighbor’s) pet.