With temperatures dropping, we humans are not the only ones that need help coping with the cold weather.  Our pets also need support.  With a bit of preparation and a few smart products, your pets can be safe, warm, and healthy throughout the cold winter months.

Fortunately, most of our dogs and cats live inside with us.  However, that means they are not growing thick undercoats to help them acclimate to colder temperatures.  So when temperatures really drop, be extra cautious.  If you have to dress up in four layers to withstand the cold, your dog will also need some extra help; unless it’s a Siberian Husky.   Dogs with increased susceptibility to cold weather risks are dogs with really short hair, aging, infirmed or arthritic dogs.  There are now many good quality coats available.  A good coat does a much better job keeping a dog warm than a sweater.  Comfort, fit and warmth are the three most important criteria.  It’s fascinating to watch a dog be fitted for a coat.  When you get the right coat on the dog he will shake and happily prance off; totally comfortable with his new wardrobe.  Smaller, low to the ground dogs, need a coat that covers their chest.  The cold comes up from the ground.  Without chest protection, you’re wasting your money.  Also, on a practical note, make certain the coats are washable. 

Don’t forget a coat for a new puppy.  Puppies don’t handle frigid temperatures as well as an older dog.  With a warm coat, housetraining will go more quickly if the puppy is not de-motivated by the cold.  If it is an especially cold winter or a very small puppy, you may want to consider wee wee pads as an option.   Once it warms up, you can retrain outdoors.   

Protect their feet!   Try walking outside, barefoot, in the middle of winter.  That’s what we ask our dogs to do.  The snow, ice, cold, and de-icing chemicals are very hard on dogs’ feet.  Moist, packing snow can create ice balls between their pads.  This is uncomfortable and dangerous – potentially causing frost bite and/or cutting the pads.  Icy conditions will also cut pads.  Feet can get sore from de-icers and if the dog licks his feet there is danger of toxic ingestion.  All of these problems are solved with good dog boots.  Once again, comfort, fit and warmth are the most important criteria. 

If you walk your dog in an area that uses a lot of chemicals, you may want to consider using a product called Pawz inside their dog boots.  Pawz are like putting balloons on your dog’s feet and they will create a waterproof barrier.  Boots also provide traction on slippery, icy days.  Like us, dogs can seriously injure themselves if they slip and fall on ice.  If you don’t use boots be certain to wash their feet after exposure to winter chemicals. For your own home use, don’t forget to get your supply of pet safe de-icers. 

Antifreeze is lethal to dogs and cats; with the added danger that it tastes good to pets.  Immediately clean up any leaks or spills.  Try and find the de-icers and antifreeze products that are safe for pets.      

Just as your car can become an oven in the summer, it can become a freezer in the winter.  Don’t leave your dog in the car for extended periods during the winter. 

And finally. . . a warm, cozy, quality bed, out of drafts, can help your dog get a restful night’s sleep.  A heated cat bed is ideal for seniors, short haired cats, and infirmed felines.  It isn’t healthy for a cat to sleep on a register grate or in front of a heating duct – very drying to skin and coat. 

Like us, your pets’ skin can dry out during cold winter months with dry air and forced air heating systems.  Please be aware of maintaining an appropriate level of fat in their diet.  January is not the time to feed a low fat or a poorly formulated senior food.  It is always better to cut the quantity of food rather than the quality of your pets’ food.  Fish oil is beneficial all year round and will help prevent dry skin.

Need some help caring for your pets this winter? Let us know, we’ll be happy to come let your pet out for a short potty break while you’re at work, or care for them while you’re on a winter getaway!

~ Cynthia