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6 Winter Pet Safety Tips

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Snow, ice, and freezing temps can be tough on our four-legged friends. As the mercury drops, pets need a little extra care to stay safe, warm and healthy. The following winter pet tips can also help keep your pet safe:

1. Watch the temperature. Outdoor cats, smaller dogs, and senior dogs are especially vulnerable to a dip in temperatures below 40 degrees, cautions the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals or ASPCA. As a good rule of thumb, if the weather feels too cold for you, it’s likely too cold for your pets, too. Dress shorthaired dogs in a sweater or jacket covering the base of the tail and under the belly. This helps retain body heat and prevents the skin from becoming dry and chapped on brisk winter walks.

2. Check your car engine for outdoor cats. In cold weather, outdoor cats seek shelter in small, warm spaces like car engines. This behavior can lead to serious injury or death if a car is started without warning. Before starting your car, the ASPCA recommends alerting cats to your presence by giving banging on the hood, slamming the door or honking the horn. Since cats can tuck themselves into tiny spaces, give them at least 60 seconds to run out before assuming the all-clear and starting your car.

3. Protect against harmful deicer. Many deicers contain chemicals that are harmful to pets, especially if your pets lick these chemicals off their paws and legs after being outside. The ASPCA recommends washing and drying your dog’s feet and belly after a walk to remove deicer chemicals and rock salt. If the sidewalks near your home are regularly covered in rock salt, consider having your dog wear booties when going out for a walk. This can help protect sensitive paws from irritation and injury.

4. Never leave pets alone in the car. Dogs and cats are susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia, just like humans. While it may seem harmless to leave your pet alone in the car while you run an errand, interior vehicle temperatures can plunge quickly during cold weather, cautions the American Veterinary Medical Association. The AVMA advises pet owners to never leave their pets alone for an extended period in a car.

5. Protect your pet’s coat. Just like humans, pets can suffer from flaky, itchy skin during the dry winter months. The dry indoor heat that makes our own skin feel itchy can affect your pet, too. Your pet may also be spending more time indoors during the winter, which can exacerbate the problem. Since bathing pets can also dry out their skin, consider bathing pets less frequently during the colder months. Consider asking your veterinarian about a moisturizing shampoo or rinse. Frequent brushing may also help to remove dead hair and stimulate blood circulation, improving your pet’s overall skin condition. The American Kennel Club reports that adding a small coconut oil supplement to food may help keep control flakiness and keep your pet’s coat shiny, but may not be healthy for certain dogs. Check with your vet to see if this is a healthy addition to your dog's diet.

6. Increase your pet’s daily food intake. In colder climates, pets burn extra calories trying to stay warm and maintain their usual activity levels. The ASPCA suggests increasing your pet’s daily food intake to help compensate for this energy loss. Ask your veterinarian whether your pet would benefit from additional food.


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