Cold Weather Tips for Your Dog and Cat

In a recent piece for our blog, I wrote about some of the cold-weather hazards that are out there like antifreeze and cold temperatures.  I thought in this one, I could share some tips that I have learned over the years to help your pets handle the winter months. As a veterinarian, I have seen some of the harm that can come from cold weather, and am sharing some pointers on dealing with winter to help keep your pets safe.

  • H-two-oh, no! Make sure the water doesn’t freeze. Many dogs are OK outdoors in the winter as long as they can stay dry and out of the wind.  But a frozen water bowl can lead to thirst and dehydration quickly. There are commercial water bowls you can buy at pet stores that have a heating element in the bottom and keep any old bowl warm and unfrozen. Just make sure that the electrical cords are not in a place that a bored dog could chew on them. In my experience, the harsh weather and constant moisture means you probably will have to replace electrical cords every other year or so.
  • Pet fashionistas: Our skinny old pit bull used to wear a leopard-print jacket around in the winter months. She looked like quite the diva. A jacket can really help keep your pet comfortable in the cold weather. Make sure you get one that isn’t just for looks — rather, look for good padding, a sturdy buckle and a good fit. Some dogs will wear them happily, others will slip them off and shred them, so you might have a supervised trial run before you send your pet out to the elements.
  • Match the calories to the thermometer: Cold weather can mean more calories burned to stay warm. Make sure your dog has a ready supply of high-quality food and track their weight. You don’t want to pack on pounds to fight the cold (there are too many overweight pets out there already), but you don’t want your dog to lose weight in the winter. Save the diets for spring, and make sure your dog gets enough calories to fight the cold and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Let’s not forget the cats: Winter can be dry and uncomfortable for cats who are indoors. The dry air can make their coats dry — and that can itch. Keeping a humidifier going can help maintain the right moisture balance and keep everybody comfortable — including yourself! Cats should be indoors in cold, wet weather and for those that can’t, the same rules apply as for dogs: they have to have a place to get out of the elements and stay dry and out of drafts.

With a little planning and a lot of common sense, you and your pets can survive winter and emerge into spring like a fresh shoot of grass!


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