Although we rarely experience deep snow and ice-covered roads and walkways in North Carolina, it pays to be prepared if severe winter weather hits our area. We understand that we need to bundle up to stay warm, and we realize our limits when outdoors in cold temperatures, but cats and dogs, especially those used to warmer temperatures, can stay outside too long in chilly conditions. Help your furry friend stay safe by following these six tips for cold weather safety.
#1: Keep an eye on the forecast to ensure your pet stays out of the worst weather
When hitting your favorite hiking trail with your pooch, always check your local forecast before heading outdoors. Winter storms with drops in temperature can whip up suddenly, and dump chilly rain, sleet, or snow on you and your pal. If a weather change is forecast, stick close to home to avoid being caught in unpleasant conditions.
#2: Gear up for cold temperatures by outfitting your pet appropriately
Pets unaccustomed to cold weather can quickly become chilled outdoors, despite their natural furry coat. Outfit your pet in a well-fitting jacket to ensure she stays comfortable when she goes outside for exercise or bathroom breaks. Check for tightness around the neck and legs to avoid uncomfortable sores. Also, protect your dog’s paws from snow, ice, and deicing product with booties, again checking the fit to avoid cutting off your pet’s circulation. If your pet will not tolerate booties, try a paw wax or balm instead to protect her paws from harsh conditions.
#3: Place winter chemicals out of paw’s reach
Toxic winter chemicals pose a threat to your pet’s safety. Spilled or leaking antifreeze can cause kidney damage, so keep your pet out of your garage when checking your vehicle’s fluids. To keep your pet safe from antifreeze toxicity, switch from dangerous ethylene glycol antifreeze to a propylene glycol product. Deicing substances are also toxic to pets, but pet-safe ice melts are available. For a convenient, inexpensive alternative to commercial pet-safe ice-melting products, try scattering sand on your sidewalks.
#4: Avoid bodies of water when walking your pet
Since our weather is usually too warm for our ponds and lakes to become frozen solid, keep your pet well away. Although a small pond may seem to have a thick layer of ice that could support your pet’s weight, play it safe and stay away, as ice can suddenly crack or be much thinner than appears. Water bodies that aren’t covered in ice are also a danger to your pet in winter. A dip in a chilly lake can lead to hypothermia in your pet, especially when combined with a harsh wind and wet fur. Keep your pet safe from watery woes by saving the swimming for summer.
#5: Groom your pet appropriately for cold weather
Although your pooch may look adorable with a short summer cut, opt for a longer haircut during the colder months, but keep her long, feathery fur trimmed short around her paws and the backs of her legs to prevent clumping from frigid rain, snow, or ice. Routinely brush your pet at home between grooming facility visits to help disperse healthy skin oils and prevent matting, which can affect appropriate thermoregulation. When bathing your pet, choose a soap-free shampoo or moisturizing product to avoid stripping healthy oils from your pet’s skin, which can become dry and flaky during the dry winter season when your furnace is in high gear. Also, boost her skin health by adding essential fatty acids to her diet, and a humidifier to her favorite room.
#6: Stick to your pet’s normal exercise routine
When cold weather strikes, you may be tempted to curl up on the couch and hibernate until spring, but your furry friend still needs daily exercise for her physical and mental health. Fortunately, you can get your pet up and moving while stuck inside in many creative ways. For dogs, create an indoor agility course, teach new tricks, or play a game of fetch down the hallway. To battle your cat’s boredom, feed her from a puzzle feeder and encourage play with a feather wand or robotic mouse toy.
If your pet is struggling with cold weather blues, give us a call.