Brrr! We hope you’ve got your big winter coats ready for both you and your furry family members! Between the chilly winds, sideways rain, and occasional snowfall, there’s a lot to consider when making sure your pal is kept safe in the winter. So we’ve considered it for you! Please enjoy our handy-dandy guide to making sure your loved ones are warm and cozy during the most frigid season!
Pacific Northwest winters are mild compared to a lot of other climates, but that doesn’t mean they don’t present their own challenges and dangers to our pets. While we’re lucky to live in an area where we only get one or two large snowfalls or systems of freezing temperatures, that doesn’t mean we can fully relax and assume our furry friends have nothing to worry about. We’re dedicated to taking great care of your pets in the cold weather, and that extends beyond our appointments. Here are 7 tips you can use to keep them safe when they’re in your care.
In addition to those tips, we have a few of our own. First, a winter checkup with your veterinarian is never a bad idea! Knowing if your pet is in good health goes a long way to determining how long they can be outside. Pets with conditions that make regulating their body temperature more difficult means they’ll be more at risk than a comparably healthy pet. Having a better picture of your pet’s health and limitations in cold weather is a great place to start.
It may seem obvious, but you don’t want to be shaving your dog in the winter! If you’ve got a short-haired dog, especially a smaller breed, a coat that provides coverage of the belly is recommended to keep them warm. However, less obvious may be that long-haired dogs actually do need to continue getting occasional trims to make sure they’re not getting ice balls, salt/de-icing chemicals, or other irritants matted in their hair which may cause skin irritation.
You may notice when you go for walks, runs, or any other outdoor activity, that you come home exhausted or wiped out, even if you’re covering the same amount of ground as you do in the summer. Well, like us, our pets burn extra energy staying warm in the winter time, even if they’re walking the same routes. Some of it is just common sense—a big Husky will be comfortable for longer outside than a dachshund who is shoulder-deep in snow—but even the big dogs are going to burn extra calories with winter activity. Feel free to reward your furry friends with a little bit more food to offset the extra calories they’re burning. Hydration is also just as important in the cold months as it is in the warm months! Make sure they have plenty of water, which also helps prevent dry skin. Here is a link with some greats ideas for exercising your dog in Winter!
While those of us with swimming pups may know that a pup taking an involuntary dip in winter water is a problem to watch out for, it is just one, but not the only way, for a dog to come down with two very dangerous winter conditions: frostbite and hypothermia. Frostbite is less common, so we’ll go over that briefly: Just like with us, frostbite happens when the body gets too cold, and pulls warmth from limbs and edges of the body into the center to stay warm. Here’s a great article about Frostbite and what to look for.
More common, and much more dangerous, is hypothermia. Hypothermia is caused by low body temperature, and happens faster to animals in poor health or with reduced circulation. Here’s a great article about Hypothermia and what to look out for. Your vet will assess what kind of damage has been done, and take the necessary steps to treat them.
If you’ve got a furry feline friend, do your best to make sure that they don’t have access to wherever you keep your car! Cats have been known to curl up against recently-turned off car engines to stay warm. Cats will curl up just about anywhere that’s warm and cozy! If you’re uncertain of if your cat has access to where you keep your car, be sure to check beneath the car, honk the horn, or knock on the hood to scare them out of their warm and dangerous hiding place.
Having your furnace checked, or using a carbon monoxide monitor in the house is also a good idea. Since carbon monoxide is odorless, we may not notice it, especially since we spend less time at home than our pets do, making them more vulnerable to carbon monoxide poisoning than us. Carbon monoxide can cause headaches, trouble breathing, and fatigue.
Just like our advice for the summer—if it’s too hot for you, it’s probably too cold for your pet—the same applies in the winter: if it’s too cold for you, it’s probably too cold for your pet. It’s best to keep them inside as often as possible, except for bathroom breaks or responsible-length walks. Never leave your pets outside in cold weather, where they can freeze, get disoriented, or worse. Cars are also a death trap in the winter—while they retain heat in the summer, they act as a refrigerator, holding in the cold in the winter. Honestly, a good rule of thumb is just never to leave your pet in your car alone.
Winter may not seem as debilitatingly cold to us as the summer can be debilitatingly hot, but it’s got its own set of major dangers. Our pets’ tolerance for cold isn’t as great as ours, so be sure to closely monitor their behavior in cold weather!