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Cold Weather Checklist

You are prepared for winter. Is your pet?


Natasha in the snow - ozmafam/Flickr

Natasha in the snow


First, the basic supply list:

Do you have enough of the following items to last a few days, should the roads become unsafe for travel or the veterinary office is closed?

  • pet food
  • litter
  • fresh water supply
  • soft warm bedding
  • any medications your pet takes on a regular basis

Now for the safety checklist and weather considerations:

  • Outdoor pets
    Some pets are better suited than others for living outdoors. There is a common misconception that dogs will be "fine" if left outside. This is not true.

    All pets need adequate shelter from the elements and insulation against cold weather. Pets should not be left outside for long periods in freezing weather. Like humans, they can suffer from hypothermia and frostbite. The young and the senior pets are especially at risk. Pets with arthritis are prone to more discomfort in cold and damp environments.

    Certain breeds, such as Huskies and Samoyeds are better suited to very cold weather, but the majority of dogs and need your help and intervention. Indoor accommodations are best during extreme temperature drops, but if that is not possible, set up a suitable house in an area protected from wind, rain, and snow. Insulation, such as deep straw bedding will help keep in body heat.

    If your pet is prone to chewing, do not use blankets or material that can be ingested. Cedar shavings can be irritating to the skin, so use with caution depending on your pet's hair coat. 

    Check your pet's accommodations daily to ensure that the interior is dry and protected from the elements.

    Caution - do not use a heat lamp, space heater, or other device not approved for use with animals. This is a a burn hazard for your pet and a fire hazard. Pet supply vendors sell heated mats for pets to sleep on or to be placed under a dog house, but read and follow directions carefully before use.

    Fresh water is a must at all times. Pets are not able to get enough water from licking ice or eating snow. A heated dish is an essential tool for cold climates. The water stays cold, but doesn't freeze. Most of the cords on these types of bowls are protected with a wire spiral wrap, but caution needed for animals that may chew. Outdoor pets require additional food for energy and maintaining body heat in harsh climates.

    Don't miss: shop and compare the top winter items for pets, including heated mats and water bowls.

  • Foot care
    Dogs walking in snowy areas may get large ice balls between their pads, causing the dog to limp. Be sure to keep ice clear from this area. For dogs that have a lot of hair between the pads, keeping it clipped shorter will help with ice ball formation. Dog boots offer protection to those dogs that will tolerate wearing them.
  • Salt and chemical de-icers
    Pets who walk on sidewalks that have been "de-iced" are prone to dry, chapped, and potentially painful paws. This will encourage the pet to lick their paws, and ingestion may cause gastrointestinal irritation and upset. Wash off your pet's feet after an outing with a warm wet cloth or footbath.

Go to the next page to learn more about cold weather pet preparations.

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