When temperatures drop and snow starts to coat the ground outside, it’s important to adjust your pet’s daily routine so you can keep him happy, safe, and comfortable until the buds of spring begin to bloom. Caring for your pet in the winter is a multi-pronged effort that will require some thought and preparation. Here are seven things you can do to make this your pet’s best winter ever.
Increase Intervals Between Baths
Moisturizer is your best friend during the winter, but your pet doesn’t have the same luxury. Baths tend to dry out their skin the same way it does yours. While it’s not the most serious of problems, dry skin can cause an animal some discomfort. Ruch-Gallie says it’s not advisable to cut out baths altogether from December to March—not only for the obvious (smelly) reasons but also because some animals have allergies and require regular baths. That said, you may want to cut back on the frequency of baths, and speak with your vet to find a shampoo that’s more moisturizing than the average one, Ruch-Gallie suggests.
Block Off Heat Sources
Dogs, and especially cats, may seek out sources of heat in your house as nice places to cuddle up or take a quick nap. But Ruch-Gallie warns that these spots present burn risks for pets because they aren’t aware of how hot they can get. “Cats may try to curl up next to a radiator or jump up on a wood-burning stove,” she says. “Owners should make these places inaccessible to their pets during winter months.”
Keep a Blizzard Checklist Handy
If you live in a part of the country that’s prone to the occasional blizzard, it’s critical to have a checklist handy. This will help ensure you have everything your pet may need, in case you’re stranded for a few days. Ruch-Gallie says the same list you might have for yourself will apply well to your pet—blankets for warmth, battery-operated flashlights in case you lose power, clean water, plenty of food, medications, and something to stay entertained. She adds that you may want to keep all these things in one place. “If you’re thinking about leaving before the snow, make sure you have all these things together, in case you need to get out quickly,” she says.
Take Care of Your Dog’s Paws
A dog’s legs, tail, and ears are most susceptible to frostbite, says Dr. Rebecca Ruch-Gallie, service chief for the Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital’s community practice. While there’s not much you can do for the tail and ears—besides keeping your walks short or walking during daylight hours—booties will provide some welcome warmth to your dog’s paws. Booties can also protect your dog from harmful chemicals like deicers. While some ice melts are clearly marked as safe for pets, many others are not. If your dog licks his paws after walking on deicer, he may be at risk of getting sick. For dogs who refuse to wear booties, you can use a towel to wipe their paws after a walk, Ruch-Gallie says. If you notice your dog stepped in salt, rinse the area as soon as possible.