Do you know how to winterize your pets?

How to Keep your Pet Safe & Healthy this Cool Season of the Year

ask a vet, ask the vet, dog health problems

1. Proper shelter and bedding. For the outdoor pets, make sure that they have adequate shelter, such as a dog house with appropriate bedding to shield the cold. Proper bedding is help support pets with arthritis. For the indoor pooches, while many dogs enjoy sleeping on cool tile in the summer, make sure your pet has a comfortable place to sleep this winter—if they aren’t taking up half your bed, that is.

2. If you decide to bring your pets into the garage, make sure they don’t have access to dangerous substances. Anti-freeze and rodenticide poisonings all increase during the winter as pet owners allow their pets into garages without realizing the dangers their pets are exposed to.

cat health issues, what is toxic to dogs, how to winterize your pets3. Bang the car hood! Cats are known to climb into car engines to stay warm. I have unfortunately lost more than one feline patient brought in to the ER after the car engine was started. Please bang on the hood, honk the horn, AND locate your feline before you crank the ignition.

4. On a lighter note, be sure to make sure your petite and less furry pets are appropriately clothed. While certain breeds of dogs are fully equipped with their coats to blaze a winter blizzard, our petite chihuahuas are certainly not.

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Suited for the cold vs. suited for a cozy dog bed by the fire

5. Joint supplements! The chill in the air can cause achy joints, even in younger pets. Ask a veterinarian if you pet would benefit from joint supplements.

6. Eating snow. My clients always ask me if it is safe that their dog eats snow, as most dogs think it’s better than cotton candy. Yes, snow is safe, but make sure they are only eating clean snow. Snow that is near cars may have antifreeze or gasoline that leaked onto it.

7. Maintain adequate hydration—pets can become dehydrated in the winter just like they can in the summer. Ensure your pet has access to water at all times. Remember, a frozen ice block does not equal water! If you keep water outside for your pets, you may want to invest in a heated water dog bowl.

8. Avoask the vet, ask a vet, as a veterinarianid frostbite! While it is still important to take your dog out for regular exercise during the winter, do so when the temperature rises a bit, and make sure to keep the walks shorter if it is below freezing. When you get back home, check your pooch’s feet and ears for any ice/snow. Extremities are the first places to get frostbite. Remember, symptoms of frostbite may not occur immediately, so if the walk was particularly brutal or there are ice clumps stuck to your pet, it is best to fill the tub with a small amount of cool to tepid water (not warm) to melt the ice away from your pet.

9. Take care to clean paw pads after being outside! Even if you don’t use chemicals such as salt to melt ice, it is likely your pet will walk on a sidewalk that does salt. Salt can be drying and irritating to paw pads, so make sure to wipe them off with a warm moist cloth when you get back in out of the cold. If you pet’s feet do get sore or irritated, ask a vet if they need medical treatment. Nobody likes tender feet!

ask a vet, pet frostbite, ask a vet online, is my pet overweight, medical causes of obesity in dogs and cats10. Watch the scale! While it is commonly believed among pet owners that they need to feed their pets MORE in the winter, this is usually incorrect. Unless your pet spends a large amount of time outdoors as a working animal, cold temperatures actually bring on lazy behaviors, and pets will need FEWER calories in the winter. Unsure if your pet is overweight? Ask a vet! There are medical causes of obesity in dogs and cats that your pet could be suffering from.

What are your best tips for keeping your pets safe and healthy during the wintertime? Share away!

Have a safe winter!

Dr. Laci


Dr. Laci Nash Schaible, DVM

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December 17, 2010 at 00:00

That is one obese kitty!

Our guys don’t need much winterizing, as they live in the house and it hasn’t happened yet they they’d get cold outside regardless of the temperature.

Though when Jasmine had half he body shaved for surgeries she did have to wear a horse blanket (small one) to keep warm.

Hubby’s brother keeps his dogs in a shop, but one winter it was so cold he took the into the basement (not allowed in the house). One of them burned his nose on the furnace … and because dogs can’t feel heat he burned it really good. Dangers can lurk anywhere.

December 17, 2010 at 10:20

Oh yikes! Poor guy! I wonder how many times pets have burnt themselves on furnaces. It is not uncommon even for pets to get burnt at vet’s hospitals. Unfortunately there are vets that use heating pads during surgery to support the pet’s body temperature though it is NOT recommended by the industry.

Dr. Jed and I have seen patients from other vets that we’ve had to do skin grafts on because so much of their skin was burnt off. Absolutely horrible! And all to cut corners and avoid the appropriate measures to maintain temperature during anesthesia.

December 17, 2010 at 15:15

Oh wow! You’d think that a heating pad should not cause such burns though, should it?

January 4, 2011 at 09:28

I was surprised that you didn’t mention dog booties and paw wax. Because of the salt on the roads after snow storms, we only walk our dogs if they are wearing booties (but we’re trying paw wax this year). They may hate having the booties put on, but they are much happier on the walks. And upon removal, the dogs go into crazy play mode which is always entertaining for us.

January 4, 2011 at 11:36

Great stuff Beth! Glad your dogs are tolerating the booties–we have not had so much luck, but I do know several people whose dogs don’t mind them. I even have a vet friend who even has “jogging shoes” for her dog year round!