Keep your Pet Warm and Safe this Winter

By Judy Layne

Winter poses risks to our furry family members. Here’s how to ensure your pet is warm and safe this winter.

Fur isn’t flawless. Many people think that because pets have fur coats, they’re ‘fine’ when left outside in the cold.  Not true! In biting cold/wind, your pet’s fur coat is no guarantee against winter chill. If their fur gets wet, it loses its insulating ability. If they have short fur, protection is minimal at best.

If it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for your pet!  Stand at the door without your coat.  If it’s too cold for you, keep your pet inside. Like us, pets can get frostbite and hypothermia.  All pets, even those who live mainly outdoors, should be kept indoors in below-freezing weather or strong wind chill.

Know your pet’s limits. Some pets (short-coated, short-legged, seniors) are more susceptible to cold, so limit the time they’re outside. Consider a coat and booties to keep them warm. Pay attention to your pet’s behavior – if they shiver, whine or raise their paws, bring them inside asap.

Beware hypothermia and frostbite. Know the signs of hypothermia: shivering, weakness, shallow breathing. Watch for signs of frostbite on nose, ears, tail and paws:  pale grey skin that turns red/puffy or shrivels, pain when touched. If you suspect either condition, wrap your pet in a warm blanket and call your vet asap.

Pay attention to paws.  Trim the fur that grows between your dog’s pads to prevent painful ice build-up.  Your pet’s feet and belly can pick up toxic chemicals including salt, antifreeze and windshield de-icers, so wipe their paws and belly after being outside. These chemicals can burn their skin and are deadly if swallowed even in small amounts.  If you think your pet has ingested any of these substances, call your vet asap.

Adjust your pet’s exercise routine.  On cold days, take short walks only.  Walking in wooded areas can protect your pet from harsh winds. Never let your dog off-leash in a storm and ensure they have current ID should you become separated.  If it’s too cold outside, give your pet an indoor workout with interactive toys, food puzzles, tug-of-war or fetch.

Keep your pet cozy.  Ensure your pet has a warm bed to sleep in, raised off the cold floor and away from drafts.

Speak up for pets in distress.  Nova Scotia’s Animal Protection Act contains penalties for failing to protect an animal from injurious cold.  If you suspect or witness an animal suffering in the cold, please call the SPCA confidentially @ 1-888-703-7722 or file a confidential online complaint online.

Please show your pets you love them by caring for them responsibly this winter.

Judy Layne

Judy is a dedicated volunteer with the Nova Scotia SPCA and proud adoptive fur-mama to Gracie. She is committed to speaking for animals who cannot speak for themselves.