Here in the Valley, temperatures may not drop as low as other parts of the country, but for some pets our weather can be challenging during winter months—sometimes even deadly. Here are some tips to keep your pet warm and safe during the winter months.
Cold weather can be harmful to your pet and worsen any conditions they may have. If you don’t regularly take your pet to the vet, now is a good time. Your vet can do a physical exam and make sure your pet is healthy enough to withstand the colder weather and give you an update on any conditions you may or may not know about. Freezing temperatures can worsen certain illnesses, such as arthritis, so it’s a good idea to be prepared for what your pet’s health may require.
Also, shortening daily walks and limiting exposure to low temperatures is a good idea during the coldest winter months.
Ideally, all pets should live inside. If your pets primarily live outdoors, bring them indoors during particularly cold temperatures. It's a common belief that dogs and cats are more resistant to cold weather than people because of their fur, but it's untrue. Like people, cats and dogs are susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia. Longer-haired and thick-coated dog breeds, such as huskies and other dogs bred for colder climates, are more tolerant of cold weather; but no pet should be left outside for long periods once temps reach freezing.
Once nighttime temps dip below 40, your outdoor pets should have shelter. Provide them with a dry, draft-free shelter that is large enough to allow them to sit and lie down comfortably but small enough to conserve body heat.
Providing cold weather shelter doesn't have to be hard. You can use a pre-manufactured pet house, a wooden box, a foam cooler (for cats), or even a cardboard box. Insulate all sides of the shelter with foam board, old blankets, or plastic, then line the bottom with an old sleeping bag, coats, fleece, or even cedar shavings, straw, or hay. Check the bedding daily—dirty and wet bedding can be fatal to a pet. Turn the shelter so it faces away from the wind, and cover the doorway with waterproof burlap or heavy plastic.
Try to place the shelter in a garage or covered porch, or beneath a carport, all of which can provide a few additional degrees of much-needed warmth. And be sure to raise the refuge a few inches off the ground to keep the cold from leeching up through the shelter's bottom while giving your furry friend a sense of security.
Make sure your pets have unlimited access to fresh, non-frozen water (by changing the water frequently or using a pet-safe, non-metal water bowl). Also, pets who spend a lot of time outside need more food to replace energy lost from trying to stay warm.
Finally, make sure your outdoor-only animals are the ones getting the food and water you put out, not your neighborhood raccoons, squirrels, foxes, or whatever wildlife happen to live in your area.
Fortunately, winter in our area doesn’t last too long, but it’s important we protect our pets during the season. Remember, if it’s too cold for us, it’s probably too cold for them!
Additional Tips for Cold-Weather Pet Safety
Tips for Caring for Outdoor or “Community” Cats in Winter