It’s Furrreezing Out There!

By Judy Layne

Winter poses risks to our furry family members and they rely on us for their well-being. We need to think about what we can do to ensure our pets are warm and safe in cold weather.  Check out these tips.

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 not enough for our ruthless Canadian winters. If their fur gets wet, it loses its insulating ability. If they have short fur, protection is minimal at best.

Get that winter swag.  There’s a huge selection of adorable but extremely functional cold-weather gear for dogs and other animals.  Coats or sweaters help keep them snug when the wind hits; boots protect their sensitive paws from painful ice and salt on the ground.

Pay attention to paws.  Trim the fur that grows between your dog’s pads to prevent painful ice build-up.  Your pet’s feet can pick up toxic chemicals including salt, antifreeze and windshield de-icers, so wipe their paws 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.

Inside is best.  Limit your pet’s time outside as much as possible on days below freezing.  This is especially important for short-coated, short-legged and senior pets, puppies and cats.  When it’s time for a walk, cut walk times in half or even shorter. If your pet shivers, whines or raises their paws, bring them inside asap.  If it’s too cold to go out, give your pet an indoor workout with interactive toys, food puzzles, tug-of-war or fetch.

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 people, 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.

Let it grow.  Think about skipping a few grooming sessions when the weather gets cold.  Your pet will appreciate a longer, thicker coat.  When bathing your pet, use warm (not hot) water and always make sure they’re completely dry afterward.

Keep ‘em snug!  Ensure your pet has a warm bed to sleep in, raised off the cold floor and away from drafts. Cozy blankets are a pet’s best friend.

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 here.

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.