With the possibility of wintry weather this weekend and colder temperatures as winter progresses, it’s never too soon to think about keeping your pets warm and safe.
“Your younger or your senior pets, they might need a little bit of an extra layer or a really short time period outside. Maybe your walks are just a minute in the yard,” says Talia Czapski, community relations manager for Loudoun County Animal Services.
Short-haired dogs may also need a coat. In additions to layers or a jacket or sweater for your dogs, she suggests following up those shorter walks with indoor play time.
Longer-haired, younger dogs may love to frolic in the snow. And the same goes for some cats.
Reasa Currier, director of the Fairfax County Department of Animal Sheltering, offers this tip for before going out to play or for a walk. “Applying a paw balm or petroleum jelly before heading outside not only safeguards and moisturizes their paws, it also prevents snow from sticking,” she says.
Watch How They Act
Dog owners need to be observant and know their pets’ behavior, especially once it snows.
“It’s just important to be a little extra mindful. Even if they’re running around and having fun, maybe just take a moment to check in on them. Have them come over and take a break,” Czapski says.
“A lot of times you might see your dog doing like a funny walk, and sometimes that’s actually a sign of their paws cramping. That’s a sign to get your dog inside and warmed up,” Czapski says.
After their walks, you need to wipe off your dogs’ paws really well to get rid of any salt or chemicals people may have used on their sidewalks. The chemicals can irritate their paws, and you’ll want to check their paw pads for cracks and redness. You may need to towel dry their legs and abdomens, too, to prevent irritation from ice, snow, and salt, Currier says.
For owners who think booties are the answer in the snow, Czapski suggests they are “definitely something to introduce ahead of time and sort of slowly acclimate them to.”
Currier says winter booties do provide excellent protection but agrees they take a little getting used to. “We suggest familiarizing your pet with the booties indoors a few times first to ensure a proper fit and to give them time to adapt to walking comfortably in them,” she says.
When it is really cold, owners should not leave their pets in cars, even if they are just heading out for a quick errand. “When they have really cold days, it’s safest for them to be at home,” Czapski says.
Inside, your pets should have a warm bed or blanket.
For those who may keep their dogs outside on a porch or tethered outside, the law requires that you bring the animals inside once temperatures drop to 32 degrees. Call the nonemergency number for police to report pets left outside in extreme temperatures.
People who may have outdoor or barn cats should make sure they have straw to sleep on.
“A lot of times, bedding or fleece bedding, it gets wet. It can get really cold and that can be very dangerous for them in their housing. So having a well-insulated house that has appropriate bedding like straw inside can be really important,” Czapski says.
Currier says you can also build a shelter for community cats or those that are unsocialized using a plastic tote or insulated cooler. Choose the container based on how many cats may use it. Cut a hole in the top for the animal to get in and out. Line the inside with insulation material and secure it with duct tape before filling it with straw, not hay, to “help repel moisture and trap heat.”
Owners should also make sure any water for the pets is fresh and has not frozen.
As you plan for any prospects for snow, make sure you plan for your pets.
“We all run to the grocery store and get bread and milk and toilet paper. Think about that for your animals,” she says. “Make sure you have everything you need for them as well. That’s especially important for those pets that are on a daily medication.”
Make sure if your pets are on prescription diets or take medication medicines that you have an adequate supply before any storm.
The Fairfax County Department of Animal Sheltering also recommends a few more things:
- When possible, use pet-safe ice melts.
- Clean up antifreeze spills immediately and thoroughly. Antifreeze is toxic to pets. Seek immediate veterinary attention if your pet has been exposed to antifreeze.
- Refrain from trimming your dog’s hair, as longer coats offer better insulation against the cold.
- For breeds with longer hair, a light trim can be done to reduce snow and ice from sticking to their fur.
Feature image, annaartday/stock.adobe.com
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