Pet Winter Care

We have all read or heard the horrible stories and consequences of leaving a pet in a vehicle in the sweltering summer heat. There have been many efforts to increase the awareness around the dangers of leaving your pet in vehicles stressing how quickly the vehicle can become extremely hot. And how important it is to have fresh water available to ensure your pets stay hydrated in the summer.

But what about pet winter care? Temperatures can drop quickly in the winter and vehicles are not well insulated nor do they have a furnace that comes on automatically when the temperature dips. Common-sense safety includes not leaving your pets in a parked car, even if you are only planning on being gone for a few minutes. The line up at the lottery terminal could cause you to be away longer that you expected. Bring them with you if you can they will enjoy a visit to a pet friendly establishment or leave them home and make sure they stay warm.

The cold can be as dangerous and deadly for our pets as to us if we fail to take proper precautions. Wind-chill, frostbite, hypothermia and dehydration are all equally dangerous to animals. As responsible pet owners, we need to learn how to care for our animals when the temperature falls.

My preference is to keep pets indoors, the affectionate cuddles and play are very rewarding in many ways. I understand this may not be everyone’s preference or even your pet’s preference. Growing up on a farm our animals were outdoors except on extremely cold nights. We had one dog, Mr. Peebody, who absolutely refused to sleep in the house and would pester you until he was let out. However we would always check to make sure the dogs were safely inside there dog houses before nightfall and call the cats in before bedtime. The reality is that some animals are outdoor pets, some of our furry friends will have to stay out in the cold.

We need to provide adequate shelter to protect our animals from the weather for example. It should be common sense, but it is the law. Make sure our pets always have access to water. If our furry family members are outdoors we need to break the ice out of the water bowl several times a day and replenishing it. A plastic or ceramic bowl is better than metal, to prevent your dog’s tongue sticking to the metal bowl. We know what happened to the kid who licked the monkey bars when we were in grade school. Consider a heated water bowl to prevent the water from freezing when you are unable to break the ice out of the bowl.

Building a draft-free, weatherproof, elevated and insulated structure with a flap-door that faces away from prevailing winds can be a fun and educational project for you and the kids. I fondly remember building the dog houses with my father for Brandy our St. Bernard and Rex our mixed breed mutt. Insulated with 3 inches of Styrofoam between the double walled construction including insulated roof and floors as well. We put a double flap on the entrance and placed the shelters on cement Blocks so the melting snow would not run inside. Inside there was straw that the dogs could snuggle into. Dad explained cotton blankets and pillows are not as good as straw because if they become damp from snow or the animal’s body moisture, the bedding can freeze and does not dry quickly. And the straw was inexpensive and easy to swap out on a regular basis. Not to forget our feline family members Snoopy and Tiger who had their very own private entrance to the enclosed porch. I thought it was a unfair to the dogs that the cats were allowed indoors and the dogs were not. But I digress. If you are not handy, shelters for animals can be purchased to keep your pets comfortably outdoors.

A few winter pet care tips

Keep our indoor pets active by playing with them indoors. Take them outside for shorter periods on cold days.

Winter air is dry can cause itchy, dry skin for us, the same is true for our furry family members. Consider using a humidifier in your home to regulate the air moisture.

When we give our pets baths, be sure their fur coats are completely dry before going outside for a walk. Remember what Mom used to say about going outside in the winter with wet hair? You’ll get a chill!

Also consider that snow, ice and salt will stick to our pets paws. When you return from a walk, pour some room temperature water into a bowl, grab a towel and rinse that residue away. Alternately, equip your pets with waterproof boots to protect sensitive paws.

Stay current with the weather forecast and adjust your pet care as necessary. Keep in mind that weather conditions can change quickly.

Want to know more about winter pet care or pet care in general? Come into Telling TAILS at 3482 Errington Avenue, Suite D, Chelmsford. Also visit