Most parts of Canada and many parts of the United States endure cold, wintry conditions for a good part of the year. Here are some tips on keeping your pets safe during these cold months.
Watch your pet carefully for signs of distress when outside - even on short bathroom breaks. Your pet might only be outside for a few minutes to relieve himself, but even those few minutes can feel very cold to a pet who's not accustomed to wintry weather. Pets who have other health conditions may also be more sensitive to the cold. Watch your pets closely for any signs of discomfort and be ready to intervene.
Use boots and jackets or sweaters if necessary. Doggy boots and cute little sweaters aren't just for fashion... dogs can feel the cold just like people can, so if your dog needs them to stay warm, then use them! As an added bonus, boots will prevent your dog's paws from becoming exposed to road salt or chemicals, or from getting cut on the sharp edges of ice.
Watch your dog for signs of limping, and de-ice his paws if need be. Chunks of snow and ice can accumulate between a dog's paws as it walks. Help your dog clear its paws as these little snow and iceballs can cause discomfort or pain when your dog walks. Using a paw wax can help to minimize accumulation of snow and ice, as well as keep your pet's paws from drying out from the cold.
Wipe or wash your dog's paws after a walk. This will remove any build-up of salt or chemicals so that he can't lick it off later.
Monitor your dog and provide extra food if needed. Playing outside in the deep snow can burn off a lot of energy, and so can just spending time outside when it's cold. Some pets may need a little extra food to help them stay warm in the winter. Monitor your pet's body condition and give him that little bit more if you notice he's feeling thin.
On the other hand, some dogs don't get as much exercise during the colder months. Cut back on your dog's food intake if he starts getting a little extra padding.
Be aware of the needs of senior dogs or those with mobility issues. As dogs age, they can develop arthritis, become more sensitive to the cold, or lose their agility, especially when maneuvering over ice. Dogs that weren't bothered by the cold when they were young might now need a little extra help when going for walks. Boots can help with traction; jackets can help them stay warm; mobility slings and harnesses lets us humans help our dogs with balance and strength; and various supplements are available to help dogs with arthritis stay as mobile as they can, for as long as they can. Always watch your dog to make sure he's not trying to do more than he's safely able to do.
Collisions with snowmobilers, skiiers, and other recreational users wouldn't be good for either the person or the dog.
Chemicals should be stored out of reach of your pet. Salt can cause an upset stomach, and antifreeze in particular is toxic and can be fatal to your pet if ingested. Wipe up any spills promptly and thoroughly.
Did you know that there's a safer antifreeze available? Regular antifreeze is made from ethylene glycol. Now there is a so-called "pet-safe" antifreeze made from propylene glycol, which is supposed to be much safer for pets and wildlife. Pet-friendly sidewalk salt is also available. Even so, store all chemicals safely out of reach of your pets to prevent accidents.